The more things change, the more they stay the same.
It may be a French proverb, but that truism had a Rapid City twist thrown into the mix Friday night.
The Rush and the Fort Wayne Komets were two-thirds of the way through a postseason game that had felt decidedly different than anything the diehards had become accustomed to.
Instead of the breathlessly back-and-forth action and violent momentum swings we’ve all been used to seeing at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in the postseason, Game 1 of the Turner Conference finals felt altogether new.
What place, after all, did a nervous, jittery, fight-free 2-1 slog have among all the intriguing contests we’d seen here the past couple of seasons?
Right on cue comes the frenetic third period, with six goals, two gigantic ebbs and flows and — wait for it — another inexplicable Rush surge that seems to define this franchise once the playoffs arrive.
Down 3-2 with 16:47 to play after a pair of Komet third-period salvos, on came the charge.
Ninety seconds following the lead change, bam — Jesse Schultz’s second goal comes on a laser-like wrister.
“It was a real good pushback for us to get down 3-2 and then jump right back,” Rush head coach Joe Ferras said. “When you tie it up that quick, the heads don’t have time to go down.”
Less than 3 minutes after that, pow — Collin Circelli’s game-winner wrests all the energy back onto the Rush’s side of the bench.
“We got down, and we knew we had to have this one. We had to pick it up here,” he said. “We can’t go down 1-0. We knew that, and we picked it up.”
And 82 seconds later, whammo — Dave Grimson gets just enough of the puck from in front for it to bounce off Fort Wayne goalie Nick Boucher, trickle over the goal line and send the small but vocal contingent of 3,549 into cowbell delirium.
“It was awesome,” Schultz said of the crowd’s crescendo. “They really got into it and were nice and loud, and that helps. It’s playoff hockey. It’s awesome. It’s the best time of year to play, and it’s just a lot of fun out there.”
It felt like the first period of the teams’ deciding fifth game in last year’s conference semifinal round. Rapid City built an early three-goal lead with a mega-charged offensive groundswell.
I know I’ve seen it before. Rapid City’s lived it plenty of times. Fort Wayne’s stared down the barrel of it twice now.
Fort Wayne coach Al Sims knows it as well. He’ll be doing all he can to make sure things really do change in Game 2.
“They were the better team tonight,” Sims said Friday. “And we’ll be better tomorrow.”
Contact Danny Lawhon at 394-8431 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.