Game 2: Rush @ Iowa Heartlanders
(Coralville, Iowa) - The Rapid City Rush, proud affiliate of the NHL's Calgary Flames, are for an opening week sweep against the Iowa Heartlanders. Puck drop is set for 5:35 p.m. MT from Xtream Arena in Coralville.
LAST TIME OUT
The Rush exploded offensively to start last night's game with Jimmy Soper and Alex Aleardi scoring just 58 seconds apart from each other to take an early 2-0 lead. After Jesse Jacques scored for Iowa, Blake Bennett added his first of the season to send the Rush into the first period intermission up 3-1. Even though Jacques scored again for Iowa, Matt Radomsky was a perfect 14-for-14 on shots faced in the third period to lock down his first professional win. Mark Duarte tallied his first pro goal as added insurance in the final stages of the third period to lock in a 4-2 final. Alex Aleardi led the charge with three points for Rapid City and a sterling +4 rating.
SHOTS, SHOTS, SHOTS
While the Rush outshot Iowa 18-7 through the first period, Rapid City only managed eight shots through the final two periods and were outshot for the game 36-26 last night. Iowa peppered Matt Radomsky with 29 shots through the final two periods.
Rapid City went 4-for-5 on the penalty kill last night, including back-to-back kills in the last ten minutes of the third period. The Rush has the 27th ranked penalty kill last season, but won the game with their PK and goaltending in last night’s opener.
SOME CAREER FIRSTS
Mark Duarte scored his first professional goal last night, meaning every Rush player has now scored at least one pro goal and therefore notched one professional point. Matt Radomsky’s win yesterday marks his first career win as a pro.
Rapid City’s win on the road is a banner-mark for this team after winning only 13 on the road last season. The Rush are now 1-0-0-0 all-time at Xtream Arena. Iowa, won the large majority of their games at home last season, finishing with only seven wins outside Xtream Arena. That mark was tied with Tulsa for the fewest road wins in the league last year.
In his first professional game, Matt Radomsky stopped 34 of 36 shots in a 4-2 win over Iowa on Thursday night. Perhaps more impressive, was he was a sterling 28-for-29 through the final 40 minutes of play and helped kill back-to-back third period penalties. The Winnipeg, Mb. native was 6th in GAA in the NCAA last year with Alaska-Fairbanks and has allowed the fewest goals of any goaltender in the ECHL this season (min. one game played).
New Rush players Zack Hoffman, Maurizio Colella, and Mark Duarte all tallied at lease a point in Thursday’s win. For Duarte, his insurance-goal in the third period marks the first in his professional career. The product of the Soo Greyhounds is one of five players on the Rush roster who has an AHL contract to his name.
O CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN
A constant professional, Alex Aleardi led the offensive charge with a goal and two assists in Thursday’s win. The goal, his 84th in the ECHL and 209th professional goal inches him closer to 100 career ECHL goals. Aleardi is also now just 10 games shy of reaching 500 career professional games between his AHL stints, a long tour in Ligue Magnus in France with Rouen, and his ECHL career. Aleardi has now played 73 consecutive games for the Rush, the longest active streak of consecutive games played for the team, breaking a tie with Max Coatta.
KILL IT, KILL IT!
The Rush penalty kill was ranked 27th in the ECHL last season, an all-time low mark under Scott Burt. Assistant Coach Peter Drikos has overtaken the penalty kill effort and his units came within 41 seconds of going 5-for-5 in his first game behind the bench. As it stands, the Rush PK is operating at 80% after the first game of the season and is looking to claw back into the 90-percent range tomorrow night. The penalty kill for the Rush staved off two third-period penalties and created a shorthanded scoring chance in the 4-2 win last night.
THIRTY LEFT FOR BURTIE
While Head Coach Scott Burt has been honest about his desire to win a championship in Rapid City, he also finds himself closer to a career milestone of 100 wins as an ECHL head coach. Burt is rapidly approaching being involved in his 1,000th ECHL game as either a player, assistant, or head coach in the league. Burt won 33 games last season and 36 the year prior which means he is on pace to take down the century mark of wins at some point this year.
THE NHL DRAFTEES
The Rush have two NHL draft picks on the roster in Conner Bleackley and Logan Nelson. Neither player was drafted by the Flames or the previous team affiliate, the Arizona Coyotes. In stark contract, Iowa boasts six NHL draft picks including G Hunter Jones (2019 – Rd. 2, 59 overall – Minnesota), Maxim Cajkovic (2019 – Rd. 3, 89 overall – Tampa Bay), and Pavel Novak (2019, Rd. 5, 146 overall – Minnesota).
DIVISIONAL PLAY LOOMING FOR R.C.
While the Heartlanders will skate against Wichita (Mountain Division) next, the Rush will not see a non-divisional opponent until December 29 when they will host… the Iowa Heartlanders. Rapid City will face Iowa, Kansas City, Maine, Greenville, and Savannah as their out-of-division opponents this season.
THE MORNING AFTER
After a long bus trip and a hard-fought win, Head Coach Scott Burt opted to give his team an optional skate during Friday morning’s ice availability. The team was able to host a full pre-scout meeting on top of a video session to prepare for a new-look Iowa team compared to years past.