It’s been far too long since I got to correspond with you Rush Nation! We have much to cover from the last few weeks of hockey, in particular a pendulum swinging on offense, family visits, and one of our promotional nights that’s become a staple for five seasons:
- Since we last visited, the Rush took two out of three against the then-best team in the entire league, endured a tough road trip, and suffered some adversity at home against Tulsa. Hockey is an emotional game, and while the Rush have only won three of their last ten games, the key to success moving forward is to stay dialed in. Now, more than ever, this young team needs to stick to what’s worked and bring it against Utah as the eight-game home stand continues this weekend.
- Last week, prior to the series against Tulsa, the Tucson Roadrunners sent down Matteo Gennaro and Tyler Parks to the Rush. Regarding Gennaro, I noticed a different tenacity to his game against the Oilers in all three games in the series. His physical nature was on full display, finishing checks, getting in guys faces, and overall playing with a “sandpaper” mentality. I thought last weekend was one of his better weekends in a Rush uniform, simply because he raised his level of physical play.
- To that point, Gennaro set himself up for a rocket of a one-timer in Saturday’s 8-4 win all because of a hit. At 11:22 of the second period, the puck was dumped into the near corner of the Oilers zone, and fielded by Cam Knight. Gennaro pursued the puck behind the Oilers net, and hammered Knight into the boards as he got rid of the puck. The hit was so hard it took Knight out of the play, therefore removing the mark on Gennaro around the net. He went backdoor, and rifled a Stephane Legault pass to put the Rush up 3-1. The Coaches preach all the time how taking the hit or making the hit to make the play can be a world of a difference, and Saturday was no different.
- The Rush penalty kill has unfortunately taken a hit in the last few weeks of hockey, allowing a power play goal in six of their last seven games. Its not for a lack of effort: our team’s penalty kill has consistently been in the top five in the ECHL since December. Personally, I feel the timing and amount of penalties is a direct result of the PK going on this slide. Last weekend against Tulsa, in particular on Saturday, there were many “avoidable” penalties committed, to use a Coach Gates term. More specifically, a pair each of “too many men on the ice” and “delay of game” minors were commiitte. A delay minor over the glass sometimes is an unlucky roll of the puck off of someone’s blade, but can also be operator error when trying to clear the puck high off the glass and out of the zone. Penalties stacked on a regular basis for the Rush last weekend in the sense that they were on the kill for consecutive appearances within minutes of killing off the minor, and that can significantly beat a team down throughout the course of a game.
- In the Utah/Idaho road trip, the Rush played four games and barely mustered 5 goals offensively. Granted, they were playing against some of the best goaltending the league has to offer in Martin Ouellette and Tomas Sholl, but the team wasn’t offensively executing, and it showed in going 0-2-1-1 on the trip. Last weekend in three home games, the Rush nearly tripled their goal-scoring output with 14 goals against Tulsa, 8 of them coming in Saturday’s win. It’s crazy how offensive tides can change in an instant like that.
- One of the more memorable goals from the 8-4 win against Tulsa came from Keeghan Howdeshell, who finally pulled off “The Michigan” to give the Rush a 5-1 lead 1:43 into the third period. That’s a maneuver that Howdeshell has tried on numerous occasions throughout the season. For those that are unaware of what “The Michigan” is, it was a maneuver executed by Mike Legg of the University of Michigan in 1996. From behind the net, Legg flexed his stick on a flattened puck, picked it up off of the ice, and tucked it over the goalie’s shoulder, almost as if he was using a lacrosse stick. Head to “Sights of the Game” from Saturday night and see the maneuver for yourself: https://www.rapidcityrush.com/en/video/2020/3/bhrei-sights-of-the-game-2-29-vs-tulsa-Asy2zt4x
- Throughout the course of a game, fans will come up to the broadcast booth at the arena due to its ease of access, and either say hi or ask me my opinion regarding the upcoming game. Following the game on Saturday, there were two people waiting outside the booth for me, and they happened to be Gordon Defiel’s father and brother, Bill and Will. That had to have been one of my favorite visits of the year. Both are great people that love the game of hockey, and being from Stillwater, Minnesota, were close enough to come out for a visit to see Gordon play. It was a special game for Gordon, as his brother hadn’t seen him play professionally yet, and his dad had never seen him win professionally in person. It never gets old when player families come into town.
- Small world story regarding Gordon’s brother Will. When we were in Utah two weeks ago, former Rush Equipment Manager and friend Patrick Dolan shot me a text and asked me how Gordon was doing. Confused, I asked how he knew Gordon. He replied that he went to the University of Minnesota with his brother Will and that they were good friends. Gordon was floored when I brought up Patrick’s name. Fast forward to a week later, which was last weekend, and I name drop Patrick to Will. He was so excited to hear his name! It was fun to reminisce like that when we got to speak with each other. It’s just another example of how small this world of hockey is.
- Another crucial series is coming our way against the Utah Grizzlies this weekend, and we need everyone in Rapid City to come and support this team as it pushes for the playoffs. Utah’s biggest x-factor as of recently has been their “next level” depth. According to our coaching staff, they’ve had over 650 combined games played this season by players on AHL or NHL contracts, speaking to the quality of skill and hockey IQ on their team. Despite that, the Rush have played outstanding hockey against the Grizzlies, going 5-3-1-0 in 9 meetings, and 3-1-0-0 in Rapid City. That speaks to the tenacity of this Rush team to consistently punch above its weight and compete with some of the best players that the ECHL has to offer. Defense and goaltending will lead to wins this weekend, in addition to remaining disciplined.
- On Saturday against the Grizzlies, our “Princess Night” promotion, presented by ImageAll, turns five years old. What started as a fun idea to have Anna and Elsa from “Frozen” come for a game has turned into a staple of Rapid City Rush hockey. We always talk about how a packed house in our building creates an atmosphere that charges the players and fans alike, and this night is no different. The excitement of the children with our jersey giveaway, courtesy of Coke, the photo ops with various princesses coming to perform, and the fact that meaningful hockey with respect to a playoff push is played, it makes for a night that we always can’t wait for in the season. If you haven’t already, get your tickets HERE and help contribute to a dynamite atmosphere!
Puck drop for both games, our last two at home head-to-head against the Grizzlies, is slated for 7:05 p.m. MDT. We need everyone there to shake the building and make it a playoff like atmosphere!