The Rapid City Rush’s blueliners made sure just enough offense stood up against the Arizona Sundogs.
The Rush’s defense, led by Michael Couch, Kyle Peto and 34 saves from goaltender Tim Boron, held off a third-period Arizona rally to preserve a 2-1 Rapid City victory Friday at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center Ice Arena.
“I thought Couch and Peto played outstanding. They logged a ton of ice time and were solid as the day is long,” Rush head coach Joe Ferras said.
The win snapped Arizona’s four-game winning streak and helped the Rush, 22-19-5, leapfrog the Sundogs, 22-21-4, and Missouri Mavericks for fifth place in the Central Hockey League Berry Conference standings.
The Rush, back on home ice for the first time since Jan. 19, received goals from rookie Winston Day Chief and Jesse Schultz to lower their already league-low average of 2.51 goals per contest.
Derek LeBlanc notched the lone tally for Arizona. Adam Russo kept the Sundogs in the contest with 30 saves, including smothering 12 of 12 in the scoreless third period.
Day Chief’s backhand shot just 2:13 in proved to be the lone highlight of an otherwise quiet first period.
The rookie’s second goal of the year came off assists from Couch and Peto and snuck past Russo.
Rapid City maintained pressure on the offensive side of the ice, outshooting Arizona 12-8 in the frame.
The Sundogs came right back, tying the score on a power play goal and outshooting the Rush 13-8.
LeBlanc, a former Rush forward, took advantage of a defensive lapse taking the stretch pass from Jason Morgan and chipping the puck high on Boron.
Schultz regained the lead for Rapid City deflecting Michael Couch’s second assist of the night.
“It’s no secret, defense is obviously the reason we’re winning games,” Couch said. “It’s going to be a tight-checking, low scoring game every time we play. Tonight guys were ready to go. We knew this was a big game for us. There’s four points out there we desperately need.”
“We didn’t like the way we played in the first period, but we came out and we battled in the second with a goal we’d like to have back with a couple of mistakes, which ended being the winning goal,” Interim Arizona coach Jeff Kyrzakos said.
Former Bossier-Shreveport coach Scott Muscutt observed from the bench and will take over the Sundogs for the remainder of the season after the weekend series in Rapid City.
Boron improved to 12-10-2 with the win in his first start since Jan. 29.
Russo slipped to 12-8-3 with the loss.
Rapid City and Arizona complete the weekend series Saturday at 7:05 p.m.