In the span of about 10 minutes, two loud eruptions came from the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center Saturday night that seemed to wake the Rapid City Rush magic of years past.
In front of a packed house, the Rush scored a game tying goal with 21.2 seconds left and a game winning goal with 1:14 left in overtime to give the Rush their fourth straight win 3-2 over the Colorado Eagles.
The win followed a 4-3 overtime win Friday night where Rapid City came back from down 3-0 with 12 minutes to go.
“We just showed character; never quit, these kids just work hard,” Rush coach Daniel Tetrault said. “They’re buying into the system. Even (Friday) night, down 3-0, in Colorado, against the defending champs? We just kept pushing and pushing and tonight and got a big victory and tonight, we could have quit. They scored a big goal to make it 2-1, we get a big goal by (Kyle) Dutra … it’s everyone stepping up right now and this could be a major turning point in the season.”
With the score tied 1-1, it looked like Colorado had the game won when Ben Storm buried a goal off an assist from Ryan Harrison with 1:06 remaining.
The first eruption from the crowd would come when Dutra scored with only 21.2 seconds remaining to tie the game, and again when Jimmy DeVito scored an overtime goal with 1:14 remaining to send the Rush to 5-6-0-0 on the season.
“We regrouped in the neutral zone and just moved the puck up and had a little 2-on-1 there and I was looking to pass but at the last second I threw it at the net and luckily it trickled in there,” DeVito said of his game-winning goal. “I thought the team, this whole weekend, came together in big moments and it was great to get two big team wins.”
On its first power play of the game, the Rush had a good opportunity with traffic around the net with about 13 minutes left, where the puck actually went by Colorado goalie Sam Brittain, but was knocked out of the crease by an Eagle defender.
Throughout the first period the Rush continued to have more opportunities than the Eagles, as they outshot Colorado 13-4.
Even with a nine-shot advantage and two power play opportunities, Rapid City couldn’t score in the first period and it ended with no score.
It took until 10:56 into the second period for the first goal to be scored, and it was Colorado that made the most of its first real opportunity of the game.
After a turnover in its own zone by Rapid City, the puck was kicked around the front of the net by Gabriel Verpaelst and Brady Shaw before it found the stick of Joey Ratelle, who put the shot home.
Only 51 seconds later the Rush scored in a similar fashion, when Pavel Jenys took a Eagle turnover and was able to put the puck by Brittain to even the score.
Rapid City’s penalty kill was a big part of it taking two out of three games against the Brampton Beast. The goalie for that series, Steve Michalek, was called up by the AHL’s Iowa Wild after the series and Adam Vay was sent down to Rapid City.
After scoring it’s goal, Dante Salituro went to the penalty box for a four-minute penalty, and the Rush crowd got to see Vay make three point blank saves, including an emphatic glove save with 11 seconds in the penalty kill to keep the score tied at one.
“He made some tremendous saves on the penalty kill. Like I said earlier in the season, your number one PK is your goaltender,” Tetrault said. “He was dialed in. He was reading the plays across ice, one timers, he was reading them and he’s such a big goalie that he covers a lot of ground and he’s very athletic for his size.”
For Vay, the penalty kill is just like any other type of play on the ice. As in, he didn’t know when the Rush were on a penalty kill.
“I didn’t think it was a 5-on-4, I’m just following the puck,” Vay said. “It’s one save at a time and I’m just focusing on the puck, and I really forget who is front of me.”
The Rush killed off another penalty before the end of the period, so the period ended with the score 1-1.
With 20 seconds to go in the second, Ryan Harrison went to the penalty box for Colorado so Rapid City started the third on a power play, but couldn’t convert a goal to start the frame.
The period was uneventful until the final minute and half when Storm appeared to put the dagger in the hearts of the Rush, before Dutra and DeVito brought the crowd to its feet.
It was that crowd, that was the talk in the locker room after the game.
“We want to people to come and watch an exciting team because that’s what we have,” Tetrault said. “We have kids who want to work, who love coming to the rink. They’re excited, and the city should jump on board and get excited too.”
The city will have its next chance to see the Rush Wednesday, when they start a three-game series with the Idaho Steelheads.