It’s been a long season for the Rapid City Rush and its relationship with referees. Multiple times questionable calls have taken games away from Rapid City.
Friday night against the Utah Grizzlies, the roles were reversed.
The Rush won 4-3 on an overtime goal from Peter Sivak, his third of the night, when it appeared that Rapid City had four men on the ice instead of three before the turnover that created the opportunity for Sivak to score.
Rapid City coach Daniel Tetrault said the Grizzlies had possession, so it shouldn’t have been a penalty, and either way, he was happy a call went Rapid City’s way.
“They had full possession and you know what? It’s about time we got a break,” he said. “The first half of the year we didn’t get any calls, so it was nice to have that one go our way.”
More importantly for Tetrault, it was a win the Rush had to gut out, because at times their play wasn’t pretty.
Rapid City was outshot 49-22, and if it hadn’t been for the play of Sivak and goalie Adam Vay, the score could have been very lopsided.
“It was ugly, we weren’t ready to play,” Tetrault said. “The energy wasn’t there. We played the first six games on the road, and as a coach I was getting concerned about that first game back at home, especially with a couple of days off with the all-star break. Sometimes you need those kind of wins.”
Sivak continued his hot streak with a three-goal game, assisting on the other goal.
“On the second goal I was in the right place at the right time, “ he said. “Right now I’m scoring, and next it’ll be someone else, that’s how it works.”
The Rush got the first power-play opportunity when C.J. Eick was sent to the penalty box only one minute and 52 seconds into the game. Although the Rush got some good looks, they weren’t able to score.
The scoring would come a few minutes later. On a 3-on-2 break, Sivak happened to be the trail man, and when he got a pass from Daniel Leavens, he hit a scorching shot by Utah goalie Sean Maguire with 13:45 remaining in the period.
Utah would respond. A penalty kill unit that started the season so strong has suffered as of late in Rapid City, and that was the case with 11:36 left in the period as Kyle Thomas scored off assists from Ryan Walters and Austin Ortega.
The Grizzlies dominated the rest of the period on the offensive end, ending the period with a 15-6 advantage. But it was the penalty kill that bit the Rush again later in the first.
With a 4-on-3 advantage, Taylor Richart was able to score off an assist from Ryan Misiak with 5:46 remaining in the period.
Early in the season the Rush were killing roughly 90 percent of their penalties and led the league in that category. Now Rapid City sits in 19th in the league and killing penalties 81.2 percent of the time.
No more goals were scored in the first period, and it ended with Utah leading 2-1.
Offensively, the power play wasn’t a place where Rapid City shined either. In the second period, the Rush got an opportunity when Ortega and Dante Salituro got into it, and Ortega was ruled as the instigator.
The Rush weren’t able to score on the power play, but only 11 seconds after it ended, the puck found the stick of Sivak again, this time on an assist from Gustav Bouramman and Ian Brady with 13:44 remaining.
Tied a 2-all, the rest of the period didn’t see a lot of offensive action for either team. It took the Rush to the end of the second period before registering 10 shots, and in the second they had a total of four.
Utah struck first in the third, and it was a player Rapid City knows very well.
Former Rush captain Ryan Walters got on the board off an assist from Mitch Jones only 1:26 into the period to break the tie and take a 3-2 lead.
After giving up the goal, Vay continued to be a stopper, but Rapid City continued to fail to get shots on the other end of the ice.
“Even the 3-1 win in Utah (Sunday), he should have been the first star. Tonight he was dialed in,” Tetrault said. “He’s finding his confidence, and you need goaltending to win you games, and he did the last couple of games, so those are good signs to see.”
But when it did, it found a way to make those shots go in.
A knuckle-ball shot squirted by Maguire from the stick of Chase Lang, and with 11:11 left the score was tied.
The Rush were able to kill a big penalty when Sivak went into the penalty box with 5:36 to go in regulation.
Rapid City kept Utah out of the goal, and with three minutes left in regulation had a chance to create some offense of its own.
It couldn’t, and the game went to overtime.
In the overtime period, unlike regulation, the Rush established control of possession early and were able to get some good shots on goal.
Finally, the controversial break-away ended the game, Walters was irate with an official while the player he was traded for (Sivak) celebrated the win with his teammates.
“I knew he wasn’t going to miss. He’s been dialed in, red hot. He was snake bitten for a month and now he’s just shooting everything. He’s got that confidence,” Tetrault said. “He’s a natural goal scorer, you knew he was going to come out of it. He’s shown tremendous leadership in last few weeks for the young guys.”
Sivak knows the importance of beating the Mountain Division foes on the schedule. Utah is the first team ahead of Rapid City in the standings, and the two have many more battles ahead.
“This is very important and we stand in the standings, we have many with Utah so we should be trying to take points from them every game,” he said.
Rapid City is now 12-23-2-0 with 26 points, while Utah is 14-16-6-3 with 37 points. The two meet again tonight at 7:05 p.m.