(BOISE, Idaho) - The Rapid City Rush, proud affiliate of the NHL's Calgary Flames, will face the Idaho Steelheads at Idaho Central Arena tonight at 7:10 p.m.
The Rush have gained at least a standings point in four straight games, including Wednesday's overtime loss to Idaho. The Steelheads remain the top team in the ECHL, but the Rush have led in three of the four games between the two this season.
FOUR STRAIGHT GAMES WITH POINTS
While the sting of a blown two-goal lead in the third period lingers, the Rush have reached a season-high in consecutive games earning standings points at four-in-a-row. The Rush are now just two points out of the playoff picture, looking to track down the fourth place Wichita Thunder (a team they swept last weekend). The Rush have taken seven of the last possible eight points in their last four games, and have shrunk a seven-point deficit to only two with the Thunder.
LET IT MO, LET IT MO, LET IT MO
Maurizio Colella set a single-game Rush high in points with four in Wednesday’s OT loss. Colella factored in on every Rush goal with an assist to draw him into sole possession of third place on the team in the category. Colella’s run dates back to last weekend where he has earned six points in the last three games for the Rush.
A LOT OF POSITIVES
Rapid City stayed within one in shot differential in Wednesday’s game, being outshot only 38-37. Rapid City also held a lead at the end of the first and the second period. As Scott Burt mentioned two weeks ago, “The most frustrating part for our team is how close we are.”
The Rush have also seen recent production from newly-signed forward Brandon Yeamans who has scored twice in the last four games and James Hardie who scored on Saturday vs. Wichita. Ty Enns had a game-tying assist in Wichita on December 3.
100 GAMES FOR HOFFMAN
Defenseman Zack Hoffman will dress in his 100th professional game this evening. Hoffman began his career with the Fayetteville Marksmen of the SPHL before becoming a day-in, day-out defenseman for Wichita last season. He has missed only one game on the blueline for the Rush this year.
NOT A LOST CAUSE
Prior to Saturday, the Rush lost every game in which they did not score first. Despite giving up the first goal in the last two games, Rapid City has earned three standings points including Saturday’s OT win over Wichita. Rapid City is tied with Idaho for the league-lead in game-opening goals with 14 this season.
THE AHL ELEVATOR
Keltie Jeri-Leon earned his first call-up in two years on his brief stint in Calgary over the course of last weekend. Despite joining the team in Boise on Wednesday, Jeri-Leon did not dress in the OT loss. Defenseman Jarrod Gourley was recalled by Calgary on Thursday afternoon – making it the third trip Gourley has enjoyed to Calgary this season. The Rush are left with five active defensemen on the roster with Kenton Helgesen remaining on the IR.
WESTERN LEAGUE REVIVAL
Nine different WHL products square off in tonight’s game, with ten on the two rosters including Kenton Helgesen (IR). The Rush have four active WHL players (Yamamoto, Nelson, Jeri-Leon, and T. Helgesen). Scott Burt was a longtime assistant coach under Don Nachbaur with the Spokane Chiefs in the WHL where he would have faced off against or coached each of the nine in tonight’s game. Nachbaur is now the assistant coach of the AHL’s Calgary Wranglers.
The road swing continues for the Rush who are now 6-4-1 on the road, taking more than 50 percent of possible standings points away from The Monument. The Rush are one win shy of being over-halfway to last season’s total amount of road wins.
For the sixth straight game, the Rush will face the number-one powerplay group in the ECHL. The Rush PK unit has allowed at least one powerplay goal against in each of their last seven games. While the kill has battled, the powerplay has scored in three of their last four games going 3-for-19 in the time frame. The powerplay has contributed a game-winning goal in the span as well (Blake Bennett – OT, Dec. 8).
BOXING IT UP
The Rush have taken fewer penalties than their opponents in only three games this season, and are 0-2-1 vs. Idaho when taking more penalties than the Steelheads.
KEEPING DECEMBER’S TALLY
Scott Burt has not had a winning record in December as the head coach of the Rush, but this December is off to a strong start. The Rush are 3-1-1 in the month to this point with nine games remaining in the final stint of the calendar year.
TANGLING WITH THE TOP OF THE FOOD CHAIN
Rapid City will face Kansas City and Idaho 23 times this season. The Rush are 1-6-2 in the division vs. the Mavericks and the Steelheads combined, but have a 6-5-0 record against all other teams in the division they’ve faced. Oddly enough, the 6-5-0 record is against the third and fourth place teams in the division, Tulsa and Wichita. The Rush have not played a divisional game this season against an opponent outside the playoff picture (including their non-divisional contests vs. Iowa).