(WICHITA, Ks.) - The Rapid City Rush, proud affiliate of the NHL's Calgary Flames, look to snap a three-game losing streak tonight against division-rival Wichita.
The Rush are 4-2-0 on the road this season, with their only road losses coming to the top-of-the-division Kansas City Mavericks.
DIVISION SEEDING HINGES ON CRITICAL THREE-GAME SET
As the Rapid City Rush head to Wichita, these two teams who have been in a middling-battle of mediocrity find themselves pitted against each other with a final division playoff seed potentially looming. Neither team has a winning record in the division, and in face R.C.’s pair of division wins and Wichita’s lone win in the Mountain Division are the two lowest in-division win totals. The Rush are 4-2-0-0 on the road and look to find that magic again as they search for a way to break their second three-game losing skid of the season.
Rapid City’s powerplay is the second-worst in the ECHL, in front of only Florida. The Rush have now gone eight games without a powerplay goal and are 0-for-19 on the man-advantage since the last time the PP unit converted. The Rush, in fact, have a -1 goal differential in the last eight games on the powerplay as Eddie Matsushima scored short-handed in a 5-2 loss to Tulsa last Friday.
FRIENDLY FACES RETURN TO RUSH ROSTER
Both D Jarrod Gourley and G Connor Murphy were assigned to the Rush yesterday morning. Murphy (2-2-0) logged the single-most saves in a game earlier this year in a 47-save performance vs. Kansas City in late October. Gourley, who only dress during Oct. 19 and 20’s trip to Iowa, scored twice in his last Rush game to tie and then win the game in overtime. G Jason Pawloski was placed on the injured reserve retroactive to Nov. 12, and Murphy is expected to see action this weekend.
In a quirk of ECHL scheduling, Rapid City will face Wichita in seven of their next 10 games, four at INTRUST Bank Arena and three at The Monument. The two division rivals will face each other 10 times this season, the second most of any team in the division for the Rush (11- Idaho).
TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS TRIPS
Outside of two close losses to the division-leading Kansas City Mavericks, the Rush have been a noticeably sharper team on the road than at home this year. The Rush have outscored opponents 22-18 away from The Monument and boast a 4-2 record away from home. The Rush only won 13 games outside the Black Hills last season by comparison.
FROM THE JUMP
The Rush have scored the game’s opening goal more than any other team in the league this season, eight times in their 11 games. Rapid City has failed to gain a standings point when they do not score first. The Rush have also not won this season when trailing at the end of any period. Coincidentally, Rapid City has yet to trail by more than two goals at the end of the second period all season and have remained competitive in every game they’ve played.
Rapid City averages the fewest shots on net of any team in the ECHL this season at just over 24 per game. The Rush have outshot their opponents only once this season (28-20) and it came in a 3-0 loss in Kansas City two weeks ago. Head Coach Scott Burt remains steadfast in the shot totals not being the indicator of a good offense, but maintains his team is creating scoring chances.
Blake Bennett remains locked in a four-way tie for the most goals by a rookie in the league this season. Bennett has scored in six of 11 games this season, including a pair of goals to close the last road trip in Tulsa. Rookie Rhett Kingston logged his first Rush goal last weekend to draw Rapid City within a goal of Tulsa before falling 5-2 on Friday night.
SAY IT WITH YOUR KNUCKLES
After waiting six games into the season before dropping the gloves, the Rush have averaged a fight per game in their last five games. Tyson Helgesen has shed the mitts twice, while Zack Hoffman, Jimmy Soper, Will Riedell, and Carter Robertson have also joined the fray. Rapid City has only been assessed one instigation minor (Riedell) and has not had anyone to serve a misconduct penalty as an aggressor.
ROUNDING THE CORNER
The Rush fell off the pace of last season’s team after being ahead of the ‘22-23 bunch coming off the four-game road swing to start the month. The Rush finished last November at an even 6-6, but that included a stretch winning five-of-seven games to close the month. The Rush are currently tied with Wichita for fourth in the division and look to hop them after the weekend if they can take two wins.
KEEPING IT CLOSE
Defensively, the Rush remained reasonably strong allowing only 27 goals this season during five-on-five play. That’s an average of 2.45 even strength goals per game. The Rush gave up a season-high five goals in back-to-back losses to Tulsa on Friday and Saturday, but only six of those goals came at an even five-on-five.
RIDING THE “GRAVE-Y” TRAIN
Brett Gravelle remains just six points off of 100 career ECHL points after logging an assist last weekend. Gravelle has the potential to join Jimmy Soper who also scored his 100th point this season in Tulsa on November 5.