In a free-flowing sport like hockey, there are constant changes of possession, but there is one moment where there is usually a team that is clearly on offense and another on defense: the power play.
When the tension is high and it has been down a man, the Rapid City Rush have shined this season. In the last series against the Brampton Beast, Rapid City was asked to kill a penalty 15 times, and Brampton did not score a power play goal.
"We’ve got great sticks in the lane, if there’s any lose pucks we’re the first on it, it’s just pure determination right now and we’re working well together," Rush coach Daniel Tetrault said. "We go through video a lot to see what kind of power play Brampton was setting up and we executed the game plan to a ‘t’. It's Sacrificing your body, blocking shots, and I’ve got a fast team so that helps a lot."
It hasn't just been the past series against Brampton. Although the Rush sit in last place in the mountain division with a 3-6-0-0 record they sit fourth in the ECHL in penalty kill percentage, at 90.9 percent.
"The nice thing is basically everyone in our lineup can kill penalties," Rush center Kenton Miller said. "They have the ability to do that and they're fresh when they go out to kill a penalty because we get to rotate through the defenders. Your best P.K. is your goaltender, and (Rush goalie Steve) Michalek is amazing."
The addition of Michalek from the Iowa Wild was also something that Tetrault pointed to being a big part of the Rush's ability to kill penalties.
Michalek was assigned from Iowa to Rapid City ahead of the Rush's series in late October with the Colorado Eagles. Since coming to Rapid City, he is 3-2, and after the Rush penalty kill went 2-11 in two games against Colorado it has been on a roll, with Michalek as the anchor.
Tetrault said he has also been happy with the power play has played. Rapid City ranks 14th in the league with a power play goal percentage of 16.2 percent, and has scored six power play goals this season.
There have been more opportunities for the Rush to kill penalties than to go on power plays themselves. It has had 37 power play opportunities and has had to kill penalties 44 times.
Especially during the series against Brampton, Tetrault admitted that the Rush need to stay out of the penalty box.
"We took some bad penalties tonight... we've got to stay out of the box," Tetrault said after Rapid City's 3-2 shootout win over Brampton Friday where the penalty kill was 7-7. "We're learning, we're a young team."
This young team is coming off a series win with Brampton and after a 0-5 start believes it is back on track.
"We've got a young team here, we only have three guys from last year," Tetrault said. "They bought into the system (during Saturday's 3-1 win), they've bought into the structure that we're trying to implement. It's baby steps but I'm proud of the guys, and now they know what it takes to win and we have to keep moving forward."
The Rush begin a home-and-home series against Colorado starting Friday at 7:05 p.m. in Loveland, Colo.