Our lengthy stay at home is coming to an end with another gigantic series against the Idaho Steelheads this weekend. Today, I’ll discuss the weekend that was, an interesting statistical trend, the key to the upcoming weekend, and the celebration of a life lost way too soon:
- Last weekend was the perfect microcosm of how much of an emotional roller coaster the playoffs can be. Utah took an early 3-0 lead on Friday, and the Rush channeled their resiliency to tie the game late and win in overtime. Saturday, it was another tug-of-war style matchup against the Grizzlies, but this time it was the rival that countered for a split on the weekend. If at any point your heart rate wasn’t through the roof, even despite the loss on Saturday, then you’re just not human. It was a very exciting weekend of hockey, and hopefully the best is yet to come against Idaho as the Rush close out their 8-game home stand this weekend.
- Regarding the win on Friday, Tyler Coulter told me prior to an interview with the Rapid City Journal’s Joe Kavanaugh that it was a “no doubter” in the sense that he knew the team would come back to win it. It’s not often that a player’s intuition would tell them so, but Coulter divulged that they key to his estimation was the body language and attitude of his team on the bench. He said at no point, even with the goaltending change made 3:26 into the game, did the team even think of packing it in. The bench was positive, the team’s play escalated as the game went on, and they played for each other. It’s that kind of mentality that can not only get the Rush back into the playoff bracket, but can power them to making some serious noise if they make it to the big dance. Friday’s win was also the third time this season at home that the Rush have faced a deficit of 2 or more against Utah and come back to tie the game in the last 90 seconds and win in overtime or a shootout.
- Expanding on Coulter further, he had one of his best weekends of the season in this recent series against Utah. He had a pair of goals in each game, with half coming on the power play. He’s the third leading scorer on the team, and one of three 20-goal scorers on the roster as well. The last time the Rush achieved that was when Peter Sivak, Dante Salituro, and Kenton Miller accomplished the task in 2017-18. Additionally, he and Brennan Saulnier are in an “arms race” for the single-season rookie goal-scoring record, which has not been broken since Derek LeBlanc tucked 26 in 2008-09 in the Rush’s inaugural season. If that’s not enough, Coulter tied the single-season rookie power play goal-scoring record on Saturday that LeBlanc also set that year at 11. Even further than that (heck, I’m running out of breath writing this one), Coulter and Saulnier are also jockeying for the single-season rookie scoring record, which Salituro set in the 2017-18 season at 48 points. Saulnier is closer to that, as well as Salituro’s single-season rookie assist record (30) with 23 assists and 45 points to his credit. Wow that was a long one.
- Let’s just keep the rookie train going, eh? Keeghan Howdeshell earned his fourth call-up to the AHL yesterday, and will join the Tucson Roadrunners in time for tonight’s game at home against San Diego. On a consistent basis, the coaching staff has stated that Keeghan is at his best when he skates hard, uses his legs, and gets physically involved. Over the weekend, he displayed how much his vision on the ice has improved. His ability to pass and identify plays has grown at an exceptional rate, and could be a key weapon for the Rush down the stretch in this playoff race.
- Coach Tetrault and Coach Gates have managed their season through segments, calculating statistics every 12 games in a myriad of different categories. Among those, some obvious stats tracked are goal differential and goals for/against. The Rush dipped in their goals for in this segment compared the one previous with 32 goals (they had 41 in the previous segment). Despite the dip in offense, the Rush scored 3 goals or more in half of the last 12 games, but went .500 with a 3-3-0-0 record when doing so. On the flip side, the team only won once when scoring less than 3 goals, going 1-3-1-1 with the lone win coming in a 1-0 shutout against Allen. The key point here is the .500 record when scoring 3 or more. When the team clicked offensively, the defense took a hit. If the Rush hope to make the playoffs, they need to clean up the d-zone so that, when the offense does come, they secure these crucial points in the final 12 game segment of the season coming up.
- The Trade Deadline this season wasn’t nearly as chaotic as last season’s, but Coach Tetrault managed to improve the team all the same with three deals in the week. On Tuesday, he acquired defenseman Brett Beauvais from the Adirondack Thunder for cash considerations. On the deadline, he acquired defenseman Mark Auk from Orlando (flipped from Toledo) for Alex Sakellaropoulos and Bo Brauer from Worcester in exchange for cash considerations. All three looked fantastic in their first games with the Rush. Starting with Beauvais, he showed great intelligence defensively, and showcased a great shot from the blue line that constantly got through for a deflection in front of the net. Auk showed exactly why he’s been touted as a power play genius: his skill and ability to escape trouble, while also finding an open man on a consistent basis for a quality shot proved to be very tough for Utah to defend last weekend. Brauer showed off how quickly he can move for a skater that’s 6’3” and 210-pounds, and displayed great tenacity forechecking in the corners. All three served as a good boost for last weekend’s series.
- It’s hard to believe that on Friday, March 6th, our President, Todd Mackin, celebrated one year with the Rapid City Rush. At the end of the season, I’ll take a more long form review on his incredible impact on our team. Long version short, without him and his leadership, we don’t have a staff that’s a family, and we don’t succeed nearly as half as well as we do without him and the staff that he brought to help lead us to great things. Next series, if you get a chance to thank him for his tireless work, please do.
- Twelve. Games. Left. WHERE THE HECK DID THE SEASON GO??? I can’t believe as we begin this series against Idaho that the year is just weeks away from finishing. With that being said, Rush fans, its go time! We need all of you for the next six home games, especially the three this weekend against Idaho. Here’s a “playoff like” trend for you to digest. Playoffs thrive on gigantic crowds, right? The Rush have won three of the last four games with a crowd of 4,500 fans or more. Conventional mathematics dictates that the more fans come to our games, the more the Rush win. If that doesn’t get you jacked up for a playoff run, then I don’t know what will. Come out and support this team, you won’t regret it.
- Idaho, as always, is going to be a tough matchup this weekend. Recently, they played the South Carolina Stingrays (currently tied for #1 in the league) and won two of three games. The loss to the Stingrays last Saturday snapped an 8-game winning streak for the Steelheads, who are still coming in red-hot against the Rush this weekend. The keys to slowing down a hot team? Goaltending and defense. The Rush have held the Steelheads to less than three goals five times in their ten matchups this season, and have only allowed more than three goals once. Head-to-head, the Rush are 6-1-2-1, which is the best head-to-head record against Idaho since they became division rivals in the 2015-16 season.
- In closing this edition, I would like to celebrate the life of a great man that my family lost way too soon. Last week, my mother’s oldest brother, my uncle Bill Lynch, passed away after a long battle with thyroid cancer. He was 70 years old. Every year on our cancer awareness weekend, I’d paint his name on the ice next to my father’s uncle, Frank Delvescovo, who passed away in 2015 after a third battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. One of the best characteristics of my Uncle Bill was his selfless and caring nature. After I painted the ice, my mom would show him the picture of his name next to Frank’s, and he’d respond back that the true honor of having his name showcased on our ice was the fact that it was next to Frank’s. He was a great man with an incredibly strong sense of faith, always put others before himself, and was an outstanding grandfather, husband, and father my five cousins. My heart is with my mother, as well as my family in Massachusetts this week and beyond. Eternal rest grant to him O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace.
Puck drop for the weekend features the normal start times: Friday and Saturday against Idaho begin at 7:05 p.m., while Sunday begins at 4:05 p.m. Come out and continue to rock this arena, and make it feel like Game 7 of a playoff series!