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“MARK” MY WORDS – FEBRUARY 11th

Tuesday, February 11th
“MARK” MY WORDS – FEBRUARY 11th

This last weekend was unfortunate, but there is still plenty of hockey to play, including this week’s series against Allen. Before we discuss hosting the ECHL’s 1st Place team, let’s dive into some thoughts on the last weekend, flying, and the week that is yet to be.

  1. One of the main storylines I discussed, especially in the last two periods of Sunday’s broadcast, is a statistical metric that Coach Gates tracks: goals scored and allowed in the first and last five minutes of the game. This metric is crucial for several reasons, but the main reason Coach Gates tries to hammer home with that statistic is when you add the first and last five minutes of each period together, its 30 minutes of hockey. For the mathematically inclined fans reading, that’s exactly half of the game, making it a crucial timeframe in competition. Of Wichita’s 9 goals scored this weekend, 7 came in the first and last five minutes of each period. The Rush scored only two of their five in that same bracket.
  2. Team Owner Jeff Dickerson of Spire Sports + Entertainment, was with us in Wichita this weekend. It’s always a great time catching up with him and discussing business, the team, and life in general. Fans in Rapid City that haven’t had a chance to meet him need to make a point to do so at their next opportunity. For the fans that have, be sure to thank him for all he has done for this team and community in the short time that he’s been an owner of this organization.
  3. In my estimation, Tanner Karty was the best forward for the Rush this last weekend against the Thunder, and that’s excusing the fact that he scored once in each game of the series. As Coach Gates has mentioned previously on Karty, he’s the exact same player every game, meaning he doesn’t try to be a type of player that he isn’t. He forechecks like a gopher, is positionally sound, isn’t afraid to defend his teammates, and shoots any chance he gets to. His consistency and commitment to his team are just two examples that showcase why he was a Captain in college.
  4. Expanding upon Tanner, it’s always special to see a player’s parents travel to see their sons play. Being from Oklahoma City, Tanner’s family is just a few hours in a car away from Wichita. After Saturday’s game, I ran into his mother and sister in the elevator, and served as their staff escort down to the loading area of INTRUST Bank Arena to see him. On Sunday afternoon, Tanner’s father came to the booth and introduced himself to me. It’s always a great feeling to meet the player’s parents, and this experience was no different. To see firsthand their passion for watching their children play is very special, and never gets old.
  5. In line (literally) with Karty at the top of my list from this last weekend are his line mates Stephane Legault and Beau McCue. Coach Tetrault’s message to the team prior to Sunday’s finale was “be noticeable”. Certainly, that entire line was noticeable in both games. I’ve already discussed what Karty brought to the table, so let’s dive into McCue and Legault. McCue works. That’s about as simple as it gets. He finishes every check, doesn’t stop moving his feet, and that hard work leads to chances, like Karty’s goal on Saturday night. Legault, in similar fashion, is at his best when he skates. In addition to his ability to skate, his passing is a large part of why he’s had such a successful rookie season with the Rush. His hockey sense is growing at an exceptional rate.
  6. We all thought Monday was going to be an easy travel day, but the Travel Gods thought differently. Our plane leaving Wichita had a generator issue, and the delay that occurred in order to get the issue fixed prevented us from making our connection in Denver. After that, we tried to get a portion of the players on a series of flights through Dallas to get into Rapid City last night. That flight to Dallas also got delayed, and kept us in Wichita. Our flight out at the end of the night got cancelled, pushing our departure from Wichita to very very early this morning. I don’t envy those who work in travel one bit. They have a very tough job, and when things like this happen out of their control, it makes for a messy cleanup.
  7. Despite the crazy travel fiasco, we went to Lead-Deadwood Elementary School this afternoon and visited some of the students that will be at our “School Day Game” tomorrow. It is so special to see pure, unbridled joy when the players visit these students. Whether its reading, or simply answering questions about hockey, the students are so enthusiastic to see these people that they look up to in the Black Hills. Of course, all of that goes out the window when Nugget enters the room. When he walks in, its as if the players are invisible. It’s actually quite hilarious. Speaking of the “School Day Game”…
  8. I. CAN’T. WAIT. FOR. WEDNESDAY MORNING!!! This game is going down as one of my favorites and we haven’t even played it yet! Our third annual “School Day Game” against the Allen Americans is Wednesday morning at 10:35am. I recall, very fondly, the last morning game we had in 2018, and it was one of the craziest atmospheres I’ve ever called a game in in my entire career. The place will be ROCKING from start to finish, and will make an enjoyable day for our players just as much as the schoolchildren that are coming. To put it in perspective, I called the game with Danny Battochio like I normally do on a closed circuit headset. Despite standing right next to the man, we had to scream into the microphone just to attempt to make sense to each other. It was a morning I’ll never forget. The Rush won the game, by the way, 6-3 over Utah.
  9. One of my favorite memories of that school day game revolves around former Rush forward Kenton Miller. Kenton has to be one of the strongest players we’ve ever had, and also was a prolific goal scorer at the CHL and ECHL levels. Until February 7, 2018 against Utah, our first ever “School Day Game”, Kenton had never scored a hat trick, despite many 20+ and 30+ goal seasons in his career. As he scored his second goal, and was buzzing for his third, I joked with Battochio and asked “Do the kids know to throw their hats if he scores again?”. Sure enough, Kenton scored the only hat trick of his professional career that morning, and not a single child in the arena threw their hats. Looking back on the moment, I’ll chuckle, but deep down for a goal scorer to earn a hat trick on home ice and not see a single hat thrown is unfortunate.
  10. This Allen team, despite being #1 in the ECHL, is beatable. Offensively, the team cheats up the ice, waiting for a “Hail Mary” pass over two lines to spring an odd-man rush into the offensive zone. That means, for the Rush, the key is to not only keep the puck in the offensive zone, but hammer away on the forecheck. Get the puck behind the defense and work the cycle. Eventually, you’ll wear them down and open them up for defensive mistakes that lead to scoring chances.

This is a crucial week for the Rush against the Americans. Get your coffee and breakfast ready for Wednesday morning, bring your Valentine to Friday’s rematch, and help us salute our First Responders on Saturday night. We need you there, and we need you loud Rush Nation!

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