I’m very happy everyone liked the first go around of “‘Mark’ My Words”, so I made a second one for all of you! Each week, I’ll continue to check in with a series of thoughts about the team, the world of hockey, and sports in general. This edition dives into some particulars of last week, a Captaincy deservedly earned, and a preview into this week’s series:
- It is an exhilarating feeling showing up to the office and the rink every day knowing that every game is a constant battle for first place in the ECHL. This is something that this team, community, and fan base is ready for, and I feel all parties involved are enjoying this run immensely. There are signs of something very special here, and the best part is its only just the beginning.
- For just the second time ever in team history, the Rush have won eight consecutive home games in a row. The first time was between December 9, 2011 and January 7, 2012. The winning streak was snapped by the Wichita Thunder in a shootout on January 13th. The next home opponent for the Rush? The Wichita Thunder. What a coincidence, eh?
- On my last edition of “‘Mark’ My Words”, I praised the creativity and class of Amanda Gunter, our Director of Creative and Fulfillment, and stated that I couldn’t wait to see what kind of production she had planned for “Rush’s Wizarding World Night”. If you didn’t come on Saturday, you missed out on a heck of a show. From the division and competition of the houses, to the videos, and all of the pageantry, it was a night we’ll be talking about for a long time. If you’re reading this, job well done, Amanda. We couldn’t be more proud of you as an organization. Simply put, you NAILED it.
- After going without a goal for nine straight games from October 25th to November 13th, Peter Quenneville has now scored in five consecutive games. Even though he wasn’t scoring, he was still consistently creating not only for himself, but his teammates as well. Coming into this week, Quenneville is second in the ECHL in scoring with 25 points, and first with 17 assists. Whether he’s putting the puck in the net or not, he’s a constant threat from all over the playing surface because of everything else he brings to the game outside of his cannon of a shot.
- Speaking further on Quenneville, it was announced earlier today that he has been named the 11th Captain in the history of the Rapid City Rush. This honor is very much deserved on his part. Since his first arrival in Rapid City, Peter has showcased his leadership and professionalism on a consistent basis, characteristics that made up the vast majority of his scouting report as both a player and person. He’s a consummate professional, a steady hand, an analytical thinker, and a leader by example. Coach Tetrault and Coach Gates made a fantastic decision for their leader.
- Coach Tetrault told me Peter had a defining Captain moment last weekend. Down 3-1 to Tulsa on Friday night with 8:52 left in the game, Quenneville yelled on the bench to the effect of “We’re not losing the game tonight. We’re just not losing”. Exactly 55 seconds later, he scores to bring the Rush back within one, assists Keeghan Howdeshell’s game-tying goal with 46.2 seconds left, and assists Tyler Coulter’s game-winner 2:04 into overtime to keep the winning streak alive. After registering four points on Friday, he added another goal and assist in Saturday’s 3-2 win, helping secure the sweep and a perfect home record through eight games. That is just a microcosm of why he is perfect Captain material.
- Tyler Parks had his first start since November 8th against Tulsa on Saturday, and stopped 30 of 32 shots in the win. Last season, it took Tyler 20 games to earn his fifth win of the year with the Rush, with the 20th game serving as the last one of the season. This year, he earned his fifth win last Saturday, only his ninth game of the campaign. One of the top-five storylines of this season is how Parks’work from last year, throughout this offseason, and the start of this season have truly paid off. His development should be a sign to everyone, regardless of where life takes you, that if you come to work with a positive attitude, a willingness to learn, and a high work ethic, your really can accomplish anything you set your mind to.
- Saturday’s exclamation point was Tyler Coulter’s second goal of the game, but what was more impressive than the strike itself was the pass he received from Brennan Saulnier. Saulnier was handed an egregious turnover right between the hashmarks in the offensive zone, and was virtually uncontested approaching the Oilers net. If he was any other rookie, he would’ve been so excited for the opportunity to score that he would’ve hastily fired it, probably into the opposing goalie’s chest logo, and a glorious opportunity would have been squandered. Instead, he was poised, took a breath, thought, and delivered a sweet no-look backhand pass to Coulter, and the Rush went up 3-1. That was a veteran move by a young professional with a high ceiling.
- Most people were asking who was in the booth with me on Saturday calling the game, and that was Coach Tetrault’s Ontario Region Scout, Gregg Pelletier. I was very appreciative with how gracious he was in providing us with his time and insight on the call. He did such a fantastic job that I was shocked when he told me that was his first real crack at on-air work. Gregg volunteers his time scouting potential amateurs and free agents from major-junior in the OHL and the Canadian College USports ranks for Coach Tetrault and the Rush. His insight in evaluating talent, his intellect for the game of hockey, and his enthusiasm for the sport were on full display for us on the air. It was a pleasure to have him here all week for the Tulsa series and be a part of the sweep that was.
- Tomorrow, the Rush begin another tough three-game stretch against the Idaho Steelheads. Last time both of these rivals squared off, the Rush left with a sweep on home ice. I can guarantee Head Coach Everett Sheen had these three dates circled on the calendar following his defeats here three weeks ago. It will be a very tough series for the Rush team, but I find myself saying that about every series the Rush have played in this season. Personally, I find that advantageous for the Rush, who have known nothing but top-level competition all year long. Last year, the Rush boasted a 4-2-2-1 record in CenturyLink Arena. The x-factor to this series for me is scoring first and scoring often. Idaho’s offense is struggling, entering the week ranked 24th in goals-per-game (2.47 GF/G). When the Rush score first, the odds are overwhelming that they’ll win. In 19 games, the team has struck first 12 times, and holds a 9-2-1-0 record in that situation. Despite the lack of offense, Idaho’s defense is ranked third in the league at 2.42 goals-against-per-game. Both teams have played in a combined 25 one-goal games out of 39 total, accounting for 65.7% of the team’s combined schedules thus far. Tomas Sholl in net has been lights out all season long for Idaho, and surely the Rush will see him at least twice in the next three games.
Puck drop for all three games is at 7:10 p.m. MDT at CenturyLink Arena this Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. As always, we’ll have our pregame coverage on 920 AM/104.7 FM at 6:40 p.m.