It was an offseason of changing coaches, changing affiliations and a culture in need of a change after two seasons without the postseason for the Rapid City Rush.
Friday night all the talking stopped and it was time to play some real hockey.
The Rush struggled during the 10th opener in franchise history, falling to Allen 8-3 at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.
“I thought we dominated the first period, we came out flying, had 16 or 17 shots, and we were just buzzing,” New Rush coach Daniel Tetrault said. “The second period was self destructive. Too many mistakes that ended up in the back of the net, and then we ended up turning it over and they capitalized.”
Rapid City-Allen games have been known for being chippy to the point where suspensions were handed out last season. It didn’t take long for the Rush and the Americans to get back to their old ways.
Allen's Anthony Collins and Rapid City's Mike Gunn traded punches in the Allen zone after only 2:14 had gone by, with Collins getting a few solid shots in on Gunn and leaving the ice enthusiastically telling the crowd to get on its feet, which it happily did.
On the ice the Rush dominated the puck for the first seven minutes, outshooting Allen 7-1, but Americans goalie Stephon Williams stopped the first few Rapid City chances.
It would be Allen, however, that would get on the board first.
During a Rapid City power play, a turnover guided the puck to the stick of Allen's Casey Pierro-Zabotel, who went with teammate Jaynen Rissling on a breakaway, and Rissling put the puck by Rapid City's Storm Phaneuf for the first goal with 8:17 left in the first period.
A little more than a minute later, after stopping the first 10 Rush shots, Williams let a hard wrister from Kyle Dutra by him, scoring the first Rapid City goal. He was assisted by Marcus Ortiz.
Allen would answer with 5:07 to go in the first period when Zach Hall got the puck in space to Alex Schoenborn, who fired past Phaneuf to give the Americans the lead.
With 4:17 remaining in the first period, Allen's Tanner Eberie was given a five-minute major for a hit into the boards on Ortiz, but only two minutes and 30 seconds later, Ryan Tensik would be sent to the penalty box for Rapid City, making it four-on-four, and Allen took advantage.
With 2:35 left in the period, Zach Porchiro scored to give the Americans a 3-1 lead.
On the next face off, Rapid City answered with an unassisted goal from Kenton Miller only 17 seconds later.
The period would end with the Rush trailing Allen 3-2.
The second period started with neither team being able to control the possession, but with 12:16 to play, Phaneuf’s struggles continued when Jonathan Lessard scored, and then 40 seconds later Pochiro buried his second goal of the game, ending Phaneuf’s night. He made eight saves and allowed five goals.
Christian Frey replaced Phaneuf, but also gave up a goal, this time with 7:58 left in the period off the stick of Oliver Archambault on an assist from Mike Gunn to make it 6-2.
The Rush are a young team this season, but the second period effort from Rapid City wasn’t only a cause of the youth of the team, according to Tetrault.
“A lot were young mistakes, but a lot of them were mistakes made by guys that surprised me. A lot of guys need to look themselves in the mirror and come out (Saturday) and show me, because I was real disappointed in a lot of people,” he said.
The outlook wasn’t all doom, as Tetrault said he was impressed by the play of Ortiz throughout the game.
“He’s my number one star,” Tetrault said. “He’s a (Division) III guy but he shows a lot of heart. I need more effort like Marcus.”
Throughout the first two periods, Rapid City had a shots advantage over the Americans 24-22.
With 3:40 left to play, Allen continued to put it on the Rush, another goal from Pochiro on an assist from Pierro-Zabotel made it 7-2.
With 20.7 seconds left in the period, Rapid City did get one goal back from Darik Angeli on an assist from Tesink.
The third period began with the Rush not converting on a few chances. Frey also stopped some Allen shots but he gave up his third goal with 12:43 remaining in the game. Joel Choulnard scored off a rebound to make it 8-3, which is how the game would end.
Tetrault remained confident after the game that the 10th Rush season will be a special one, and he believes the team will be able to avoid the slow starts that have plagued the team in the past.
“The good thing is we play them again (tonight). We’ll be able to learn from our mistakes,” he said. “For a lot of guys it’s gut check time. I’ll go through the video and see what we did wrong, especially in the second period. If we play like we did in the first period for 60 minutes we’ll be fine.
“I’m going to see what kind of character they have, but I’m not worried. These kids will respond. It’s a tough start, a nightmare start, but it is what it is. You have to get back on the horse.”
Rapid City and Allen will go at it again tonight at 7:05 p.m.