GAME 1: Rush @ Iowa Heartlanders
(Coralville, Iowa) - The Rapid City Rush will face off against the Iowa Heartlanders at 5:35 p.m. MT to open the 2023-24 regular season.
RUSH FACE HEARTLANDERS FOR THE FIRST TIME AT XTREAM ARENA
Rapid City will open the 2023-24 season by making their first trip to Coralville in team history. The Heartlanders visited The Monument in the 2021-22 season, but will now have the opportunity to host in the rush in inter-division play. Iowa won the final two games of the three-game series in their inaugural season, a 4-3 overtime win on Saturday, Jan. 8 and a 9-1 thrashing of the Rush on Sunday, Jan. 9. Rapid City will end the calendar year by hosting Iowa for three games Dec. 29-31 of this year.
SCOTT BURT GOES FOR CAREER WIN 70
Since taking over as bench boss for the Rush in 2021, Scott Burt has changed the team culture and has led the Rush to the playoffs and nearly got them there again last season. Burt is hanging on to 69 career ECHL head coaching victories. Between his tenure in Rapid City, coupled with his time as an assistant in Idaho and Alaska and his playing career, Burt has appeared in 946 ECHL games in some capacity.
CAPTAINS NAMED FOR 2023-24 SEASON
Announced to all Rush season ticket holders at their annual banquet on Tuesday night, Head Coach Scott Burt revealed that Alex Aleardi and Logan Nelson will shared the “C” designation and Jimmy Soper and Tyson Helgesen have been named alternate captains. For the first half of the season, Aleardi will wear the “C” on the road and an “A” at home, while Nelson will be the home captain and a road alternate. The two will switch home and road duties at the halfway point of the year. Soper will suit up as a road alternate, with Helgesen wearing an “A” at home for the opening half of the year. The pair will also swap home and away honors at the midpoint of the year.
Always one to turn a phrase, Scott Burt has coined the term “Grind” for this season. Burt’s mantra appears on the official team workouts shirt and puts an emphasis on embracing the daily struggle of ECHL hockey.
THE SHUTOUT DROUGHT
While Rapid City came within three points of cracking the Kelly Cup Playoffs for the second straight season last year, there was a notable statistic missing from the team’s resume – a shutout.
Not only did the Rush find themselves without a single shutout recorded last year, but fell on the wrong side of four separate shutout losses. Rapid City has been shutout in six appearances since Lukas Parik recorded the team’s last shutout in the 2021-22 season.
AND NO ONE IS BACK THERE BUT AN ECHL ROOKIE
Whether it’s Matt Radomsky, Connor Murphy, or Jason Pawloski, the Rush only have rookie netminders to choose from when it comes to a starting goaltender. Murphy, a highly-touted prospect out of Union College, is the early favorite to win the starting job. Radomsky played his last season of college hockey at Alaska-Fairbanks last season, and while he has been in camp the longest, still does not have a professional game on his resume. Inactive for this trip, Jason Pawloski has 40 professional wins (3 of them coming in the ECHL), but he has spent the majority of the last two years backstopping the SPHL’s Fayetteville Marksmen.
Leading the veteran leadership charge is Logan Nelson who re-signed with the Rush late this past off-season. Nelson is entering his 10th ECHL season and has tallied 452 games in his ECHL career. He is also the only player on his second stint with the team as he first donned the red-and-black for 31 games during the 2016-17 season. He is the most veteran ECHL player on the Rush roster this year.
ONCE A JUNIOR…
Assistant Coach Peter Drikos will be making his ECHL debut on Thursday night. Drikos was hired in August after a 10-year career in the OJHL, most recently with the 32-win Cobourg Cougars. Drikos was the head coach of an OJHL team for seven of his 10 years in the league. He will be primarily responsible for the Rush penalty kill and video study sessions.
BAND OF BROTHERS
The Rush are a well-connect hockey family with multiple brothers suiting up in other leagues as soon as this weekend. Keanu Yamamoto’s brother, Kailer, signed over the offseason with the NHL’s Seattle Kraken after spending the last four years with the Edmonton Oilers. Blake Bennett’s brother, Shane, has been a consistent forward in the Quad City Storm (SPHL) lineup. Kyle Soper, Jimmy’s brother, will dress with the SPHL’s Fayetteville Marksmen this season. Lastly, Kenton Helgesen, at least for now, has hung up his skates after playing alongside his brother Tyson in Rapid City last year.
Rapid City features nine rookies on the team, opposite of only two veteran players. While Maurizio Colella, Weiland Parrish, Charles Martin, Rhett Kingston, Blake Bennett, and Jason Pawloski have all experience some time in the ECHL – Riley Ginnell, Connor Murphy, Matt Radomsky have not.
ROAD, SWEET ROAD
The Rush will play six games on the road before playing even three at home this season. Those six road games are split between Iowa (2), Kansas City (3) and Tulsa (1) over a mere 17-day span.
THE FLOYD OF ROSEDALE
Originally, the Rush were supposed to play on Friday and Saturday instead of the Thursday-Friday split they have now. The Saturday game was moved because of an arena and medical staff shortage due to the annual University of Iowa vs. University of Minnesota football game. The game is played for a bronze pig trophy, named “The Floyd of Rosedale” in honor of an actual prized-pig, bet by the governor of Iowa and Minnesota prior to the 1935 game (Minnesota won). While Minnesota has the all-time series lead 62-52-2, Iowa has won the last eight meetings between the schools.