For better or worse, the Rapid City Rush and Denver Cutthroats will get to know each other pretty well in the coming days.
That’s because the two Central Hockey League rivals will face off four times between tonight and Sunday, with the opening salvo of the series set to be fired tonight at 6:35 p.m. at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center Ice Arena.
“We’re either not going to not mind each after these four games or we’re going to hate each other,” said Rush veteran forward Damian Surma. “It’s going to be exciting, that’s for sure.”
Counting a pair of preseason contests, the Rush and Cutthroats have already played four times in the early going and will meet a total of 16 times during the regular season.
Denver has yet to get the best of Rapid City, but that doesn’t mean the Rush will take the expansion Cutthroats lightly.
“Everybody’s good, we know that. We’ve got to take it one game at a time, one period at a time so we put together 60 minutes of good hockey,” Rush head coach Joe Ferras said.
The Rush are already coming off a three-game weekend.
Rapid City opened with a 2-1 loss at home to the Fort Worth Brahmas on Friday, then bounced back with a 4-3 victory over the Missouri Mavericks on Saturday at Independence, Mo.
Sunday afternoon, the Rush battled back from a third period deficit to tie the Quad City Mallards at the end of regulation, but fell 3-2 in a shootout.
“We played hard. We had our chances, we couldn’t capitalize on them. At least we came out of there with a point,” said Surma, who scored the game-tying goal in the third period.
Leading Denver (5-7-0) are forwards A.J. Gale (nine goals, 11 assists), Brad Smyth (six goals, nine assists), Troy Schwab (three goals, 11 assists) and Gabe Gauthier (seven goals, three assists) for the Cutthroats, who lost to Fort Worth after taking two from the Arizona Sundogs last week.
On Monday, the Cutthroats placed Detroit Red Wings defenseman Kyle Quincey (skating for Denver during the NHL lockout) on team suspension.
“The way we’re looking at it it’s a playoff series,” Ferras said. “These two teams could very likely meet in the playoffs.”
Surma (three goals, 10 assists) leads Rapid City (7-5-1). Jordan Baker (four goals, seven assists) is questionable to play this week because of an upper body injury. Jarrett Konkle and Jared Brown each have seven goals and three assists.
By Sunday, Rapid City will have played seven games in 10 days.
“Keeping the game real simple is going to be the key,” Ferras said. “We’ve got to play real smart, short shifts.”
The competition level in the CHL this season demands a full effort, Ferras said.
“If you don’t bring it for 60 minutes every night, you’re going to lose, end of story. It’s that simple,” he said.