The Rapid City Rush are off to a slow start in their big four-game series with the Utah Grizzlies, dropping their second straight contest 2-0 Wednesday night in West Valley, Utah.
In the battle for the final playoff spot, now with 14 games remaining in the season, the two losses have dropped the Rush, 29-25-3-1 (.534) to fifth in the Western Conference, 001 percentage point behind the Grizzlies, 25-21-5-6 (.535) for the final playoff spot.
Wednesday night the Rapid City offense struggled as Utah goaltender Parker Gahagen, who stopped all 16 Rush shots as the Grizzlies got the only goal they needed in the second period, adding an empty netter late in the contest.
Both teams skated to a scoreless deadlock through almost the entire first half, until a second period power play put the Grizzlies in the lead. At 6:27 of the second, Trey Bradley fired a shot off the stick of A.J. White that was redirected into Rush net-minder Adam Carlson. Carlson made the initial save, but White grabbed the rebound to push the Grizzlies to a 1-0 lead (Bradley and Ty Lewis assisted).
Lewis got some insurance for the Grizzlies with an empty-netter with 26 seconds left in regulation. Gahagen was perfect on the night, stopping five shots in the first period, four in the second and seven in the third.
Carlson suffered the loss, stopping 32 of 33 Utah shots in the effort (13-10-2-1).
The Rush continue their seven-game road trip, with two games remaining in this week’s set against Utah. Puck drop for the final two games on Friday and Saturday are set for 7:10 p.m.