The Rapid City Rush announced Tuesday that rookie defensemen Geoff Fortman and Vinny Muto will return for the upcoming 2017-18 season.

Fortman comes back to the Rush after beginning his professional career with the club last season. The 6 foot, 1, 200-pound blue-liner scored four goals and four assists for eight points in just nine games.

Fortman made an immediate impact, registering at least one assist in his first three games with the Rush, and finishing with points in his last three games, including a trio of goals in his last two. Prior to joining the Rush, the native of Crystal Lake, Ill., played 137 games in four years of college hockey with Canisius College in the NCAA. Additionally, he skated with the NAHL’s Amarillo Bulls and won the 2013 Roberston Cup NAHL Championship.

“I’m very excited for the upcoming season. I had such a great experience with the Rush organization, from the fans, to the staff, and Coach (Daniel) Tetrault, and that was enough for me to want to come back for this season,” Fortman said. “Coach Tetrault helped me so much last season. He communicated so well with the d-corps, and that allowed me to learn the pro game for the brief time I was with the team.

"I gained confidence every day and was able to contribute at a high level. This is a very important season for our team, and seeing the front office get ready for our 10th anniversary, plus the new affiliation and Coach Tetrault taking over, we’re shaping up to have a great year for our awesome fans and hopefully bring back a championship.”

“Geoff is a very sound and smart defenseman with the puck. He has a great hockey sense, which is very tough to teach,” said Tetrault. “He makes great passes, knows when to jump in, and is responsible defensively. Geoff is also a great leader and a hard worker, and we’re happy to have him back this season.”

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Muto also comes back to the Rush after starting his professional career with the team towards the end of the 2016-17 campaign. The 6-2, 210-pound defenseman played a dozen games in a Rush uniform after his college career, notching his first two professional assists in the process.

Before coming to the Black Hills, the Niagara Falls, N.Y. native played 136 games over the span of four seasons with Niagara University in the NCAA, registering 12 goals and 38 assists for 50 points with the Purple Eagles. Muto also played one season in the USHL that was split between the Lincoln Stars and Sioux Falls Stampede.

“Coach Tetrault is probably one of the best coaches I’ve ever played for: he’s personable and trustworthy, and that’s one of the main reasons why I decided to come back to Rapid City,” Muto said of his return to the Rush. “When I reflect on last season, I realize I was playing pro hockey, which always seemed like a dream but now I’m living it. I’m glad I’m coming back to a familiar situation in Rapid City that feels right for me. I’m looking to be an impact guy right off the bat, log lots of minutes, and do my part every day in preparing. The new affiliation adds even more excitement to this next season as well. It all just sounds so unbelievable, and I can’t wait to get started.”

“What impressed me most about Vinny was his skating and ability with puck,” Tetrault said. “Vinny makes great breakout passes, which helps get the puck to our forwards and gets us moving up the ice. He’s a great kid off the ice as well, and I’m going to teach more of the defensive side of game to him this season. We’re very happy to have him back.”

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