There never is any love lost between the Colorado Eagles and the Rapid City Rush.
Time can pass but that still rung true Saturday night in the second and final exhibition game of the series, and the first home game for the Rush, as fists flew in the 5-3 Colorado win at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.
“This is all part of a culture change, guys sticking up for one another,” Rush coach Daniel Tetrault said. “It’s going to be like a family this year, and we addressed it in the summer, and we addressed it before our home game. Our home record was despicable last year. We lost the game, yes, but the effort was there and I’m pretty sure the fans know the effort was there and the guys stepped up for each other.”
Tetrault said he wasn't disappointed in the outcome, and was pleased with the effort that he saw on a night where many of the top Rush players were sitting.
The first period got off to a chippy start, as John Rey and Jesse Mychan got into it within the first minute of the game, which would be one of six incidents where players had to either be separated or fought in the first period.
It also made the Rush shorthanded, and on the ensuing faceoff Colorado’s Michael Joly buried the puck by Rush goaltender Christian Frey only 58 seconds into the game.
The Rush responded with a goal of their own only 1:06 after, when Marcus Ortiz scored from the right side to tie the game.
Colorado dominated the shots on goal in the period 11-3, and one of those found the back of the net with 8:05 left in the first.
It would Matt Garbowsky that would break the tie for Colorado with a goal after 11:33 had gone by in the period.
The first period ended with the score 2-1, and the second period would end the same way. The Rush were able to even up the shots by outshooting the Eagles 9-4.
There were a few more incidents where players had to be separated, but both clubs appeared to settle down from a intense first period.
The best chance for a Rush goal came with about 5:36 remaining as Evan Janssen had a breakaway opportunity but was unable to tie the score.
Tetrault was happy with the way his team fought in the second period, even if they didn't get the equalizer, being down 2-1.
"The most positive is that first period was we were down 2-1 and we came out really strong in the second," he said. "We established the forecheck, got really physical, we didn't back down from any fights and we took it to them."
Tetrault was also happy with the effort of the Rush power play, which scored two of the three Rush goals.
"My power play was real good, you know why? Because we always had traffic in front and everyone had that shot mentality," he said. "Last year guys were standing on the side of the net and not going into the dirty areas. You didn't see that tonight, and that's how it's going to be all year."
Before a wild third quarter started more extra curricular activity took place, with separate fights between Tyler Dereksy and Mychan, as well as between Alex Kromm and C.J. Garcia.
The big fight was between Gabriel Verpaelst and Marcus Ortiz. Afterwards he tried to fight multiple other Rush players before going to the penalty box for a five minute major.
The Rush would take advantage.
In the first minute of the third period the Rush took a 3-2 lead with goals from Riley Weselowski and Ryan Tensik.
Rapid City would give up that lead with another goal by Joly, while the Eagles were shorthanded at the 4:11 mark of the period, and before the Rush knew it, the Eagles had the lead again as Drayson Bowman scored on an assist from Grabowsky on a power play goal after 7:57 had gone by.
It was script familiar to the one the Rush followed at times last season; get a lead in the third period only to give it up.
Tetrault said that is not what happened Saturday night.
“I’m not even worried about that, that didn’t even cross my mind,” Tetrault said. “It’s preseason, they have almost a full roster and just won a championship, and most of those guys are back, playing. I’ve got some of my top guys out, and we should have won."
Garbowsky put the nail in the coffin with an empty net goal with about two minutes left in the game.
“It’s going to be a great year. The compete level is going to be there and I guarantee you, we’re never, ever going to get outworked in our building,” Tetrault said. “We made that perfectly clear. The fans deserve it, and everyone else in this organization deserves it, and that’s the way it’s going to be.”
The Rush open their regular season Friday against the Allen Americans at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center at 7 p.m.