Last week was a busy week for the Rush, but this week will be even busier. I’ll break down the calamity of this week, a call-up well deserved, and a proud AHL moment for our team:
- Last Thursday, the ECHL announced that Tommy Daniels, “Voice of the Allen Americans”, and Jason Mals, “Voice of the Wichita Thunder”, were selected as the broadcast team for the 2020 Warrior/ECHL All-Star Classic, presented by Toyota, on the NHL Network. I couldn’t be happier for two of my best friends in this business. As a rookie broadcaster in 2013-14, the last year the CHL existed, Tommy and Jason were instrumental to my development as a professional whether in how they set their broadcast booths up, how they constructed game notes, how they carried themselves on the air, or what they said to bring color to a broadcast. I wish the two of them nothing but the best as they represent our league on the NHL Network on January 22nd.
- The Cincinnati Cyclones were exactly like we thought they would be. They were well coached, structurally sound, could skate at all positions, and were defensively responsible. It was a tough test for this team, but I feel it was a great test for the midway point of the season.
- Friday’s win gave the Rush 20 wins at the half-way point of the season for a third time ever in team history. The last two times (2010 and 2014), the Rush made the playoffs. It’s not a guarantee, but it’s a great indicator that the playoffs could be in the cards for the Rush this season. It’s a testament to the growth of Coach Tetrault and how far he’s come in his three years. He doesn’t get nearly enough credit for where he’s already led this team, and where he can potentially lead them in the final 36 games of the year.
- The Rush were noticeably different without Tyler Coulter in the lineup on Friday. Tyler is such a breath of fresh air in every sense of the word for this organization. On the ice, he plays the game the right way with grit, heart, skill, physical presence, and outstanding intellect. Off the ice, he’s an ambassador for our brand and sport, and is a consistent presence in our community.
- Rush Captain and 2020 Western Conference All-Star Peter Quenneville stole the show on Friday with four of the team’s five goals in the 5-2 win against the Cyclones, joining Kelly Klima as the only Rush players to strike four times in a game. He added another goal on Saturday, but it came with a price: an injury that took him out of the remainder of the game. In similar fashion to Coulter’s absence, Peter’s was equally felt for the remainder of the game on Saturday.
- Regarding Peter’s record-tying night, Friday after the game, I escorted him to an interview with Joe Kavanaugh, Rush beat writer for the Rapid City Journal. On our way, we talked about his stellar performance, and he told me that the difference-maker was in his stick. He added roughly an eye lash length to the stick as he cut it before the game, and that made all the difference in the added pop to his shot. I don’t know what’s more impressive: the fact that he could feel that miniscule of a difference? Or that he knew to make that precise a modification? It’s another testament to Quenneville’s more than above average hockey intellect.
- One last thought on Peter: yesterday morning, it was announced that he earned an AHL call-up to the Rockford IceHogs. He is fully deserving of his call-up to Rockford. Peter has done everything the right way since he first came to Rapid City in Training Camp. What makes the call-up even more special is his younger brother, John, was recently re-assigned to the IceHogs from his most recent NHL stint with the Blackhawks. This will be the first time since Peter’s final year of major-junior with the Brandon Wheat Kings in 2014-15 that he and John will wear the same uniform.
- On the topic of AHL call-ups (I’m on a roll segueing into the next thought, aren’t I?), the most exuberant of congratulations must be given to Tyler Parks on earning not only his AHL debut, but later his first AHL start, and subsequently his first AHL win. When I saw on the boxscore that he got the win, I reflected on how Tyler got to that point. He played in the NAHL and went to NCAA Division I, but left St. Lawrence University to go to the NCAA-III Adrian College program. He was a revolving ECHL back-up that would get a start on really good teams, yet never received goal support and couldn’t snag his first ECHL win. He then went to the SPHL’s Peoria Rivermen and led them to the 2018 SPHL Finals, but went the distance in a three-game series loss for the title to the Huntsville Havoc. He came to the Rush last season, and, despite countless quality starts at the beginning of the year, still didn’t have scoring support to get his first ECHL win. Then December 21, 2018 rolls around, and Tyler stops 29 of 32 shots in regulation and overtime, and all three shooters in the shootout round to defeat the Wichita Thunder for his ever-so-elusive first ECHL win. From that moment, Parks finished the season 5-6-2-0 in his last 15 games. This year, he’s 11-6-3-0, has the first two shutouts of his ECHL career, earns the first two AHL call-ups of his career, made his AHL debut, and won his first AHL start. Oh, and by the way, he wasn’t drafted, and was never on a contract higher than the ECHL level.
- The main point of the above is this: THIS IS WHAT THIS LEAGUE IS ALL ABOUT. The development of a player is EXACTLY WHY this league exists, and it’s stories like this that make it so special.
- It’s 2020, and four games/five nights/three cities is still a thing. How? I find stretches like that mind boggling, similarly to how I feel about three games/three nights. The math doesn’t really equate to that either, because its more like four games in three and a half days, if that, due to the Sunday afternoon game. I get that arena availability is a huge factor to this, but I think series’ like this put the players at an unnecessary risk for injury, and because of escalating fatigue, you don’t see a high level of hockey. Moving forward, arenas should work better with the ECHL on what’s already a tough enough job in building the schedule. It will be a challenge, but playing in the Mountain Division, the ECHL’s deepest and toughest division, has prepared them well for this.
Puck drop for the lone home matchup this week against Wichita tomorrow night is slated for 7:05 p.m. MDT at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center Ice Arena. After that, the team will travel to play Indy on Friday at 5:35 p.m. MDT, and Cincinnati for Saturday at the same time and Sunday at 1:00 p.m. MDT. It will be a busy week of Rush hockey, but we’re grateful that you’ll all join us at the arena, on ECHL.TV, and on KKLS 920am/104.7fm.