Preseason hockey games are a chance for young players to shine at the professional level.
Trailing in the shootout, Rapid City’s Derek Elliiot tied it up and Kyle Peto scored the game winner to lift the Rapid City Rush to a 3-2 victory Friday night at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center Ice Arena.
Brett Lutes scored Denver’s only shootout tally.
“From a fan’s standpoint, boy did those kids work their tails off,” Rush head coach Joe Ferras said. “Things will sort themselves out as we go along here, but you can’t fault how guys played. That’s what it’s all about in preseason.”
A mix experience and youthful Rapid City blueliners and rookie goaltender Neil Conway limited the expansion Denver Cutthroats to six shots on goal through the first 48 minutes of regulation.
Jordan Baker scored twice for Rapid City, but Denver tied it up with a pair of third period goals to force a scoreless overtime.
Denver rookie netminder Kent Patterson withstood a 22-shot barrage until a pair of former Colorado Eagles put the Rush on the board late in the second period.
Peto fed Baker who skated in front of the Denver crease and backhanded a shot off the crossbar. Baker added a power play goal early in the third period.
“The Baker kid was outstanding. He made something happen all night long,” Ferras said.
The Cutthroats finally cracked the scoreboard 13 seconds into their first power play in the third period. Luke Fulghum chipped the Cutthroats’ seventh shot of the night past Conway.
Andrew Cole added a rebound goal with four minutes left and the Rush killed a 5-on-3 and another late penalty to preserve rhe deadlock.
Conway faced just five shots through the opening 40 minutes, but finished with 22 saves after Denver turned up the heat in the third period.
‘He looked real good. You can fault him on either goal,” Ferras said.
Denver is coached by first-year head coach Derek Armstrong, a 14-year NHL veteran who played for the New York Islanders and Rangers, Ottawa Senators, Los Angeles Kings and St. Louis Blues before hanging up his skates in 2010.
“It was nice to see the boys build a little character in the third period. Give (Rapid City) credit. They came out and gave it to us the first two periods,” Armstrong said.
“We gave ourselves a chance and you can’t ask more than that. We’ve definitely got to come out a little quicker,” Armstrong said.
The expansion Cutthoats feature 20-year veteran Brad Smyth with 88 games in the NHL, CHL All-Star Brett Lutes from the defunct Dayton Gems, Mario Boilard from Evansville and captain Aaron MacKenzie,one of two University of Denver products on the roster.
The Cutthroats played the first game in team history wearing Rush practice jerseys.
Both teams hit the ice for warm-ups wearing white or mostly white jerseys. Denver goaltender Kent Patterson kept the whites on for the game but the rest of the Cutthroats wore plain Rush black with no names or numbers.
“It’s a broadcaster’s nightmare,” said Cutthroats radio man Brian Rea.
Denver and Rapid City square off again Saturday night at the Ice Arena. Denver and the Missouri Mavericks play Sunday at Dodge City, Kan.