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“MARK” MY WORDS – December 17th

Tuesday, December 17th
“MARK” MY WORDS – December 17th

Another week of home games has passed, and now we’re down to our final two games before the Christmas holiday! It’s unreal how fast the season has come and gone so far. Today, I dive into some observations from last week’s series against the Wheeling Nailers, the perception of time during the season, another great job done by game ops, and the luxury of flight for this upcoming road trip:

  1. The Wheeling Nailers were exactly as Coach Gates told me they were through his diligent pre-scouting work. Their forwards worked extremely hard and skated well, and they utilize so much ice in odd-man situations. Last week’s three-game set was hard fought, but just unfortunate that the team couldn’t earn a point.
  2. On Friday, much discussion was had regarding a second period no goal call, and one of the more unfortunate aspects about it was that it wiped a goal away from Rush forward Taylor Crunk. He works too hard to not be rewarded for constantly defending his teammates, taking a beating in front of the net, and just being a great all-around teammate and person. If he continues to trust the process and keeps bringing his lunch pail to the rink every day like he already is, it’s only a matter of time before he notches his first Rush goal, or even his first Rush point for that matter.
  3. On Friday, following a four-game absence from the lineup, Rush defenseman Eric Israel came into the second game against Wheeling and played, in my opinion, the best game he’s ever had in a Rapid City Rush uniform. Eric stepped up in every facet of the game: he was poised with the puck, defensively responsible, and came close to scoring his first professional goal on a number of occasions. If he consistently puts in outings like last Friday, he’ll stay in the lineup for the rest of the year, assuming he remains healthy. Good on him for being prepared and ready to play.
  4. Similarly, Rush forward Dexter Dancs has really stepped up his game as well. Dexter plays his best when he is relentless on the forecheck, whether its puck retrieval or hammering the opposition behind the goal line to create an opportunity in the offensive zone. He’s starting to understand his role and embrace it, which will only make him that much more dangerous as the year progresses.
  5. When I comment on a player’s impact like I did in the last two points, I think back to what ECHL Hall of Famer and former NHLer Steve Poapst taught me. After we first met following Training Camp 2017, Coach Tetrault’s first season as the Head Coach, I drove “Popper” to the airport and we talked about the recent preseason scrimmage we had before our preseason games against Colorado. When I asked what in particular he was looking for in his evaluation, Popper said he was looking for “notes”. When I asked him to elaborate, he said “If I have notes on you, whether they’re good or bad notes, that means I saw you and noticed your play. If I don’t have anything next to your name or number, you were invisible.” To that effect, I carry that in my broadcasts. If I catch myself saying a player’s name over and over again during a broadcast, whether good or bad, you become noticeable. If I didn’t call your name once, or at all, then it’s a good sign that player most likely won’t be in the lineup moving forward. To their credit, Dexter and Eric stood out to me, and are just two of a number of players that I called frequently this last weekend against Wheeling.
  6. On their way out of town, my dear friend D.J. Abisalih, the “Voice of the Nailers” for the last nine seasons, thanked our organization for the hospitality the Nailers received coming out here for their first time ever. Its moments like that that make you sit back and appreciate the organization and leadership you work for, and the precedent they’re setting in bringing us to a higher standard every day. After some delay in travel leaving Rapid City on Sunday, D.J. and the Nailers returned home to Wheeling, West Virginia safely.
  7. Friday night was “Star Wars Night”, and once again, Amanda Gunter was instrumental in how entertaining that game was. On two occasions while I was on the air, Amanda had me ROLLING. She played a clip with Chewbacca, Han Solo’s lovable Wookie co-pilot of the Millennium Falcon, singing “Silent Night”, and I had tears rolling down my face I was laughing so hard. At the start of the third period, she played a Star Wars mashup clip tracked to Jock Jams “Y’all Ready for This”, and it was so hilarious with Obi-Wan and Anakin’s fight scene from Episode III edited to make it look like they were dancing along. I couldn’t start the broadcast until I gained my composure. I’m telling you, if you haven’t been to a game this season, you’re seriously missing out.
  8. This week, the Rush will travel to Allen to take on the ECHL-leading Americans, who have started to pull away from the Mountain Division heading into the Christmas break. For a second time this season, the team will fly to Texas for the trip. You have no idea how crucial it is that we’re flying this season. You can tell a noticeable difference in the energy levels of these players when they fly. I’d like to thank our ownership, on behalf of the team, for investing in flying this season. We still have four more trips in which we’ll fly as well, all coming at crucial junctures against some heavy competition.
  9. Time is perceived so differently as a season begins and progresses, and after seven seasons of working in hockey, you catch on to certain patterns related to time perception. For starters, the year starts off incredibly slow, until about this time of the year. After Christmas, it’ll feel like playoffs are only days away, as the season tends to fly by so fast after the holiday that it begins to blur. Similarly, in the offseason, July 4th is the point where things feel the same. The offseason, depending on if you’re in playoffs or not, drags until America’s birthday. After the barbecues settle down and the fireworks are done, its as if Training Camp is days away. It’s funny how that all tends to work out.
  10. To quote our coaches and players, the sentiment heading into the Allen series is this weekend is “we owe this team”. The Rush are going to play with a chip on their shoulder, as they normally do, but with even more motivation on the line to end their current skid. Allen is a really good team, as evidenced by their #1 position in the entire league, but what makes them so dangerous is their five-on-five play. The Americans power play is the third worst in the ECHL (11.6%), but that hasn’t stopped them from winning games. They’ve scored 104 goals through 27 games, third-most in the league, with 89 coming in even strength hockey (13 are on the power play and two are shorthanded). While special teams is crucial to a team’s success, the Americans dominate the way that hockey was intended to be played: even strength five-on-five. In order to upset the Americans on the road this weekend, the team needs to remain disciplined and excel in five-on-five hockey.

Both games on Friday and Saturday are slated for 6:05 p.m. MDT puck drop at the Allen Event Center. As always, you can catch all the action on the “Official Station of Rush Nation”: KKLS 920am/104.7fm. As we travel, please pray for our safe arrival to Texas, and as we go our separate ways for the Christmas holiday after the series concludes this weekend as well.

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