(WEST VALLEY CITY, UT) – Alex Rauter scored twice, including the game-winner with 5:01 left in regulation on the power play, as part of a three-point night, pacing four multi-point performances as the Rapid City Rush defeated the Utah Grizzlies by a 4-3 score on Monday night. The game finished six consecutive matchups head to head against Utah, in which the Rush earned wins in 5 of the contests, and now trail the final Mountain Division playoff spot occupied by Kansas City by 7 points with 7 games remaining.
In a first period that saw six penalties called, it would be special teams that led both combatants to a 1-1 deadlock after 20 minutes. The Rush started off the scoring entries with their first shorthanded goal scored since Andrew Radjenovic accomplished the task on November 23rd, and received it from Alex Rauter, scoring for the first time since his acquisition on the trade deadline. With 5:31 left in the first, Rauter forced a turnover off of a Utah faceoff win outside their zone, and broke all alone on Grizzlies goaltender Joe Cannata, firing it after a fake over his shoulder to give the Rush a 1-0 lead (the goal was unassisted). Moments later, on the Grizzlies fourth power play of the frame, Caleb Herbert fired a shot from the high slot with a screen on Rush net-minder Adam Carlson, firing it over his shoulder to tie the game at 1-1 after 20 minutes (Mike Economos and Jack Walker assisted).
Tyler Poulsen scored twice in the second period, both times re-establishing a Rush lead. His first tally came at 4:26 of the period when Poulsen came into the Grizzlies zone with speed and rifled a shot over Cannata’s shoulder that was so hard, it knocked his water bottle to the corner of the rink, giving the Rush a 2-1 lead (Rauter and Jack Riley assisted). Utah countered again on their next power play at 8:24 of the frame, when Turner Ottenbreit came full bore into a loose puck in the slot area, firing a blast by Carlson to square the game at 2-2 (Austin Carroll and Ryan Walters assisted). Poulsen struck again during four-on-four hockey with another highlight reel goal to give the Rush the lead after two periods, this time coming with speed from the other side of the ice and finishing with a backhand over Cannata’s glove to make it a 3-2 lead with 1:57 left (Dylan Quaile and Brandon Fehd assisted).
Utah opened up the third period on a power play due to a late minor assessed against the Rush after the end of the second, and scored once again to square the game for a final time. With 1:29 gone by in the third, former Rush forward Jack Walker took a loose puck in the slot area, and while falling, fired a shot by Carlson to even the game at 3-3 (Caleb Herbert and Economos assisted). Looking for the killing blow, the Rush used their last power play of the game to jump ahead for good. With 5:01 left in the game, Alex Rauter completed his three-point night with a rocket of a one-timer, beating Cannata through traffic to give the Rush their final lead at 4-3 (Quaile and Fehd assisted). Down two men in the final minute, Carlson and the Rush penalty kill unit hung on and took a 4-3 win, their fifth in the last six games played consecutively over the last two weeks against the Grizzlies.
Adam Carlson stopped 36 of 39 shots in his sixth consecutive start, winning his fifth of those six against Utah (19-14-3-2).
The Rush now shift from six games in a row against Utah to five in a row against the Idaho Steelheads, beginning Friday, March 22nd, with puck drop at Premier Home Mortgage Ice in Rushmore Plaza Civic Center slated for 7:05 p.m. MST.