(RAPID CITY, S.D.) - The Rapid City Rush, proud affiliate of the NHL's Calgary Flames, take on the Iowa Heartlanders tonight at The Monument starting at 7:05 p.m.
It is Star Wars Night, presented by the Hotel Alex Johnson, as the Rush look to make it a perfect 4-0-0 against Iowa this evening.
RUSH GO FOR FIFTH STRAIGHT HOME WIN
The Rapid City Rush have won each of their last four home games after starting the season 0-7-1 at The Monument. After a 4-2 win last night, R.C. finds themselves just three points away from tying Tulsa for the third place in the Mountain Division. With the win last night, the Rush have claimed the season series over Iowa and are 4-1-1 all-time against the Heartlanders.
A NEW HOPE
The Rush are 6-4-1 in the month of December, and regardless of result in the final two games of the year, the team will have had their best December under Scott Burt. The Rush were seven points out of a playoff spot on December 3 after a loss to Wichita, but have since won six of their last ten and taken points in seven of their last ten to rack up 13 standings points.
RETURN OF THE JE”D”I
Kenton Helgesen’s return to the lineup last night allowed the Rush to dress a traditional 11 forward and six defensemen for only the third time in their last seven games. Kenton, the older of the two Helgesen brothers, is the longest-tenured ECHL defenseman on the roster.
THE EMPIRE STRIKES FAST
Rapid City remains at the top of the ECHL with 18 game-opening goals scored this season. Rapid City also has a plus-nine goal differential in the opening period and remains one of the fastest-starting teams in the league. The Rush have secured 11 of their 12 victories this season after scoring the game’s opening goal.
R.C.’s penalty kill staved off six powerplay chances by the Heartlanders last night, snapping a streak of 12 straight games giving up a powerplay goal in games where the Rush have taken a penalty.
First-year pro Mark Duarte tallied two points in last night’s win, becoming just the most recent in a chorus of strong showings from rookies. Blake Bennett leads the team in goals with 12, James Hardie scored a hat-trick on Dec. 20, and Charles Martin leads the team in assists from defenseman. The Rush have only two veteran players in the lineup (Aleardi and Nelson) who remain top scorers, but the rookie corps has solidified during this month.
HOME PLANET ADVANTAGE
Logan Nelson is riding a five-game home point streak entering tonight’s game. He currently sits second on the team in assists with 17 and is just two off the team lead (Aleardi, 19). In those five games, Nelson has six points overall and continued to find scoring with a point-per-game average over the six game road trip.
Keltie Jeri-Leon resumed play where he left off prior to his call-up to the AHL’s Calgary Wranglers. Jeri-Leon mustered two points last night with a pair of goals and has factored into the scoring in five of the last seven home games.
DUEL OF THE DAYS
Last night marked the first regulation Friday win of the season for the Rush who are now 3-7 on Friday this year. Rapid City has won six of their twelve victories on Saturday and Sunday, the two best days by win percentage for the Rush this season.
The Heartlanders have won only once this season when allowing four or more goals. The Rush have scored four in each of their three wins over Iowa this season, are now 4-1-1 against the Heartlanders all-time, and are heading into the fourth game of the season series between this two teams.
Keltie Jeri-Leon’s shorthanded marker was the third shorthanded goal of the season for the Rush. The Rush have now scored one more shorthanded goal than they’ve allowed this season with three separate players scoring one.
The Rush were suffering from a minus-seven shot differential just six weeks ago. However, Rapid City has since balanced themselves to within a single shot on average (31 shots for, 32 shots against). The turnaround has seen the Rush increase their record with eight wins since the improvement began.