It's no secret that the Rapid City Rush's season didn't get off to the start that the organization wanted.
What a difference a few weeks can make.
After a thrilling 2-1 overtime win against the rival Colorado Eagles Saturday, the Rush have won four straight games and are 5-1-0-0 after dropping their first five games.
"It’s definitely a turning point. Big weekend, character wins, never say die attitude, they know they can play with the best and beat the best now so they have that feeling, that swagger," Rush coach Daniel Tetrault said after Saturday's win. "They’re playing with confidence, learning to play as a team and we just have to keep rolling here at home."
The win Saturday was preceded with a win Friday, where the Rush scored three goals in the final 12 minutes of the third period to tie the game and a goal in overtime to get the win.
"It was a huge two wins for the team and from a maturity standpoint, we played a full 60 (minutes)," Rush forward Jimmy DeVito said. "No matter if we were up or down we stood together as a group and as a team we came out with four points."
Rapid City dug itself a hole to start the season, so at 5-6-0-0 it still sits in last place in the mountain division with 10 points. The Idaho Steelheads sit in sixth with 14 points, and come to the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center for a three game series this Wednesday.
The home crowd has been good to Rapid City this season, as it is 4-3-0-0 at home, but Saturday night was something different.
The Civic Center was as alive as it has been this season, and the Rush celebrated Veteran's Day with a big win. The players and Tetrault noticed the 4,148 people who came out and said it fueled them.
"They were talking about it after the win here, how amazing that feeling was and how loud the building was and it gives them energy, it was awesome," Tetrault said. "I want to thank everyone that came out, it was a big night, military night, I want to thank all our service members and veterans. It was an excellent ceremony and the guys were fired up.
"To take four points out of Colorado; we just have to keep building momentum here. We have more home games that we have to take care of, just keep rolling, it’s a great feeling."
Although the Rush still sit in last in the mountain division, they are first in penalty kill in the entire ECHL.
Rapid City has killed 92.4 percent of penalties, the second closest is the Toledo Walleye who is at 89.8 percent.
In the past Tetrault has said the most important part of any penalty kill is a solid goaltender, which Rapid City appeared to have in Steve Michalek.
So solid, in fact, that he was called up by the Iowa Wild of the AHL and Adam Vay was sent down to Rapid City.
The Rush penalty kill hasn't missed a beat.
In the series with Colorado the unit was a perfect 10-for-10, and dating back to after a Oct. 27 game the Rush have killed 28 straight penalties.
Vay joined the team ahead of the Rush's game Friday in Colorado and proceeded to stop 57 shots in the series.
"He wants to play, and he wants to be here and he wants to make it to the NHL, and he wants to prove to the Wild that he can make the big club one day," Tetrault said. "He’s going to get a lot of work in, he’s going to play a lot of games. He’s a hard-worker, emotional guy and he was real happy after the game and all the guys were happy for Adam."
The Rush might still have a lot of work to do to climb the standings, but the players and the coach believe there might be something happening in Rapid City.
After missing the playoffs the last two years, that optimism is well received in the Rush locker room.
"Guys are dialed in, buying into the system and we’ve got a fast team, the guys can motor," Tetrault said. "We just have to keep building from here."
Rapid City and Idaho begin their series Wednesday and it continues Friday and Saturday at the Civic Center. The puck drops at 7:05 p.m. all three nights.