The Rapid City Rush almost ended its home season with a thrilling comeback victory.
Rapid City scored three goals in the third period, but needed to score four to tie the Quad City Mallards, who topped the Rush 5-4 Saturday night at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.
"It was the kind of night we needed saves and didn't get them," Rush coach Daniel Tetrault said. "(Christian) Frey had an off night, and that's why we lost. That's it, terrible goals, it's deflating. The guys never quit, we almost came back to tie it. Any kind of goaltending we win. He's a young guy and it was just one of those nights where he's off."
Frey gave up four goals in just over a period of work before being replaced by longtime Rush goaltender, current goaltending instructor and play-by-play analyst Danny Battochio, who also had his jersey retired Friday night.
It was a busy weekend for "The Batman," who was signed during the week after an injury to Adam Vay left a spot open.
"I thought about starting him (Saturday), but with Frey winning (Friday), you just don't do that to a kid. Right now it looks like I should have," Tetrault said. "You don't do that. Frey has been battling all year and had a great win (Friday) night. It seemed like when Danny was in it, he gave us a lift."
Battochio allowed one goal and stopped 25-of-26 shots that came his way in 39 minutes of action.
It was the Rush that started the game off with a goal. Andrew Radjenovic scored only three minutes and 40 seconds into the game off an assist Daniel Leavens.
The Mallards would spend the rest of the first period and early in the second period to build their lead.
It started 5:34 into the first when Matt Pohlkamp fired a shot by Frey with the help of Willie Raskob and Chris Izmrilian.
Tommy Muratore put the Mallards ahead for good when he fired a slap-shot past Frey's right side and scored 12:54 into the period. He was assisted by Connor Reilly and Jake Bolton.
At the end of the first period, Quad City led 2-1, but the beginning of the second was when the flood gates started to open.
Just 27 seconds into the second frame Ryan McGrath scored on assists from Jamie Tardif and Raskob. Then, only 1:55 into the period, Nick Bligh scored with the help of Alexander Kuqali.
It was after that goal that Frey was pulled, and Battochio came off the bench to a thunderous ovation from fans. They grew even louder as he went back to his old form and got multiple saves out of the way right away.
"It's quite the story, that's for sure. It's a unique situation," Tetrault said. "It was great for the fans to watch 'The Batman' back in action again."
Battochio would allow one goal 10:48 into the second which was scored by Izmirlian and assisted by Alex Gobke and Pohlkamp.
At the end of the second period Rapid City trailed 5-1.
The Rush, however, would have one more run left in them.
New roster addition Willem Nong-Lambert scored on an assist from Radjenovic 3:01 into the third. Just two minutes later, Leavens got a rebound goal that was also assisted by Radjenovic. With a little less than 15 minutes remaining, the Rush had cut the lead to 5-3.
Radjenovic, who was involved in every goal Rapid City scored, got his second goal with 6:51 into the third on assists from Leavens and Adam Marsh. It was suddenly a one-goal game.
"I thought they were real good in the third period," Tetrault said of the play of the six new players he acquired early in the week, including Radjenovic and Nong-Lambert. "Our bench was down after those questionable goals. It's kind of deflating, but they never quit. They came out after the second period and gave it all they had in the third.
"It takes time, they're young and I knew it was going to take a couple of games to get them going."
The Rush, however, couldn't get the elusive fifth goal. Battochio made some spectacular saves to keep the lead at one, but Rapid City couldn't find the back of the net, and Quad City was able to get the win.
Rapid City finishes the 2017-18 season, its 10th in history, with a 15-19-1-1 record at home. It falls to 22-41-3-3 with a league-low 50 points.
Quad City is 23-41-4-1 with 51 points. The two teams conclude their series in Illinois Wednesday. After the Mallards, the Rush head south for the last weekend of the season where they will have a two-game series with the Tulsa Oilers.