Last week was eventful in a number of ways, and we’re headed into three games against the Nailers. Today, I discuss the end of a historic run, our presence in the community, and our first ever matchup against Wheeling:
- It was unfortunate that the team’s historic home winning streak came to an end on “Hockey N’ Hope” cancer awareness night, as well as the Teddy Bear Toss, but unfortunately, all good things come to an end. Before the franchise record run ended, Peter Quenneville kept the home winning streak alive for one more night with an overtime game-winner 40 seconds into the period of free hockey. The goal helped set the franchise record for most wins in a row on home ice at nine straight. It was a back-and-forth game that featured nine combined goals scored in the last 40 minutes plus overtime, and was one of the more offensively potent games that the Rush have been in this season.
- The Teddy Bear Toss and “Hockey N’ Hope” are two of my most favorite nights in the year, and we got them in a two-for-one special on Saturday. It’s always such a special game because it’s a night where hockey takes a back seat, and generosity is the main attraction. You helped donate over 1,700 teddy bears for Youth and Family Services, which is more than last year’s total produced. That’s 1,700 children that you helped provide a bright day for. Job well done, Rapid City.
- Building off of your generosity from Saturday, you helped us raise over $12,000 on Saturday night for the Regional Health Foundation. With that money, we’ve raised close to $310,000 over the last 12 years of this game. The generosity of our community blows my mind. There are teams that have been around twice as long and can’t come anywhere close to that total. Again, job well done, Rapid City. You make us so proud to represent you.
- Because the home losing streak ended, all of us on the team clean shaved our facial hair. Per Coach Tetrault’s rules, we were on a long point streak and even longer winning streak at home, and therefore couldn’t change a thing. I wore my moustache for 37 days from the start of “Mo-vember” until December 8th at midnight. It had one heck of a run. There is now a noticeable breeze on my face that I need to get used to.
- Being home for more than a week at a time is a nice change of pace for all of us on the team. While traveling and seeing different arenas and cities is fun, the recent grind of “home one week, gone one week” starts to wear on you mentally and physically. It’s nice to have home games to work, our fans to see, and to be able to sleep in your own bed for longer than five days.
- Last week, the Rush acquired goaltender Alex Sakellaropoulos from the Norfolk Admirals in an exchange for future considerations. What has been so hilarious about the trade is that NO ONE in our office can say his name right except me. If you ask anyone on our team for his pronunciation this week, DO NOT ask our front office staff. It’s butchered like a prime meat. If you’re reading this, sorry guys. I’m simply being honest, while laughing uncontrollably.
- Last night, Giovanni Fiore, joined by Brennan Saulnier and Josh Elmes, donated pucks to the Rushmore Hockey Association mites players at their evening practice. Fiore earned the pucks as a result of winning Inglasco ECHL Player of the Week honors for his stellar play against Idaho in the final week of November. It’s always great to see our players graciously give their time to the community, but very special when they get to meet young hockey players and interact.
- This week, the Rush welcome the Wheeling Nailers to town for the first time ever. It’s so special for our organization to welcome new teams to the Black Hills that have never been here before for a number of reasons. For starters, there’s a great deal of excitement in the unknown of facing a brand new opponent. It’s also nice to showcase how we as an organization do things here in Rapid City. There comes a great sense of pride in matchups like these, and I look forward to being a part of showing #NailCity and their fans how we do things with the Rush. One of the benefits of Wheeling coming into town is I get to see a great friend, and a terrific broadcaster in D.J. Abisalih. D.J. is known for his limitless enthusiasm, high-energy level, propensity to drink gallons of Mountain Dew, and positive views on everything in life. It’s always nice to show your fellow colleagues your home, and I hope he enjoys his stay here.
- There is a noticeable difference in the Rush when they score first. Through 24 games this year, the Rush have provided the first goal of the game 15 times, and in such games are 11-2-2-0. To put this in perspective, the Rush have 15 wins and 18 games with a point. It makes up a vast majority of their success this season. To put this even further in perspective, the Rush scored first in 28 of 72 games last season. The team is over halfway to last year’s total, and there’s still 48 games left to play.
- If the Rush hope to dispatch the Nailers in this week’s series, the first key is the defensive zone. The Rush had a less than memorable weekend playing in the d-zone against Utah last weekend, and despite that, the team took one of the two games against the Grizzlies. If they execute a good first pass out of the zone and play with a sense of urgency in their own third, they’ll be off to a good start against Wheeling. Wheeling had a knack earlier in the season of stealing points late from teams within the final minutes of regulation, so the next key, in the most cliché of ways, is to play a full 60 minutes. Lastly, they need to find killer instinct. The Rush have let teams hang around too often in the third period, allowing 20 goals in the third compared to scoring 15 in the last 12 games. If the team finds that killer instinct, they’ll be a force to be reckoned with in the second half of the season.