When backed against the wall Wednesday night, the Rapid City Rush penalty-kill unit was an utter brick wall.
Down a man on five occasions against the Arizona Sundogs, the Rush were dominant when they needed to be, and they added another short-handed goal to their CHL-best total during a 4-2 victory at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center Ice Arena.
Riley Weselowski had the short-handed tally, which came just past the midway point of the second period and gave Rapid City some breathing room at 3-1. In the Rush's second 3-on-2 chance of the Sundogs' power play, a series of tic-tac-toe passes from Jeff Kyrzakos and Scott Wray resulted in the assistant captain having a gift-wrapped finish.
The goal was the Rush's eighth when down a man this season, and it broke a deadlock with Dayton.
On three of the Sundogs' power plays, the Rush held their foes without a shot on goal. Arizona controlled portions of the scoreless first period, primarily because they spent 6 minutes on the man-advantage. But each time, the Rush held firm, and usually then some.
Rapid City had only eight shots in the first 20 minutes, and three of those came on short-handed chances, to boot. Wray had a wraparound opportunity almost 5 minutes into the game for the first shot for Rapid City (13-11-1), and Michael Couch had a pair of chances within a few seconds of one another on a separate penalty-kill in the final 2 minutes of the frame.
"The guys are buying into the PK," Rush head coach Joe Ferras said. "It's hard work, especially against these guys, who have so much skill. You have to outwork them. ... It ended up as one of our most solid games of the year all-around. Everybody played well."
Rapid City had more than twice as many scoring chances in the second period, and Carl Hudson took advantage 26 seconds in with a wrister from beyond the far circle that beat Sundogs netminder Scott Reid (7-8) stick-side. About 6:30 later, Mike Vaskivuo took an outlet pass from Konrad Reeder and made a pretty feed to Kyrzakos, who finished near the net before tumbling to the ice.
"I was going to go for a change, and I saw the puck chipped past with an opportunity for a 2-on-1, if not a 2-on-0," said Kyrzakos, who eclipsed the 20-point threshold with his two-point night. "(Vaskivuo) made a great pass, right on my tape. It was easy to put in.
Kyle Hood scored both goals for Arizona (9-14-4). The first came on a redirect of a centering pass from Adam Smyth to beat Rush goalie Tim Boron (6-4) at 9:33 of the second. The score broke a shutout string of 90:37 for Rapid City against the Sundogs.
The second goal came with 8:35 to go in the game, as Hood deked Boron off a pass from Craig Macdonald while the Rush were caught in a line change to pull Arizona within 3-2.
Rapid City, though, had one of its shutdown penalty-kills in the final five minutes to thwart Arizona's last decent opportunity, and Jesse Schultz added his league-best 37th point on an empty-netter with 36 seconds to play.
The two teams close the two-game set at 6:35 p.m. tonight.