Following a season-opening win against Colorado on Saturday night, the Rapid City Rush had every reason to feel optimistic on Wednesday night heading into a three-game series against a 1-5-1-0 Brampton Beast squad.
For the first 19:58 seconds of the contest, the optimism seemed well-placed as the Rush jumped out to a 2-0 lead.
Not so much thereafter as Brampton scored with one second remaining in the first period and tallied four unanswered goal to got up 4-2, fighting off a valiant Rush third period comeback with a goal in the final 19 seconds to hold on for a 5-4 win on the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center ice.
The Rush converted an early power-play opportunity to grab a a 1-0 midway through the first period (9:18 remaining). Dante Salituro, charging the net, took a crisp centering pass from Gustav Bouramman, skated to the right of Beast goalie Andrew D’Agostini, and buried the puck inside the far post. Evan Janssen earned a helper on the play as well.
Rapid City extended the lead to 2-0 with 4:49 remaining in period one as defenseman Matt Caito tallied his first goal of the season knocking in a rebound of a Salituro shot with Janssen picking up his second assist of the opening period — and fourth of the season.
The ill-timed Brampton goal with one second remaining in the period — a Jordan Henry tap-in of a loose puck past Rush goalie Steve Michalek following a scrum behind the net — served as a Beast of a wakeup call.
The late goal was all the more painful for the Rush as the home-towners had dominated play throughout much of the period outshooting the Beast 12-6.
"The first period was good for us,” said Rapid City coach Danny Tetrault. “We were a little slow out of the gates, but after that we scored a power play goal and went up 2-0 and then that goal with one second left was a real dagger. I think it broke the guys a little bit.”
While an element of luck might have contributed to the first Brampton goal, not so the second as the Beast came out flying to open the second period, completely dominated play outshooting the Rush 6-0 and evening the score at 2-2 (16:29) on a Matt Petgrave goal.
Despite a Rapid City flurry midway through the period, the wheels came off completely thereafter with Brampton adding a third and fourth unanswered goal to go up 4-2 as Luc-Oliver Blain scored on a Bramford 3-on-2 rush and a Scott Jacklin goal closed out the second period scoring.
“I don’t know what happened in the locker room during the first intermission, but we were a totally different team in the second period,” Tetrault said. “They totally dominated. They outworked us and wanted it more.”
Despite trailing by two goals, the Rush remained resolute forcing the action in the third period and though a Rush power play came up empty four minutes into the period, persistence paid off as Kenton Miller tallied his fourth goal of the season converting a short-range wrister to cut the margin to 4-3 with 14:04 remaining.
And after a couple of well-orchestrated Rush power plays came up empty down the stretch, Ian Brady’s first goal of the season with 2:03 remaining knotted the score at four goals apiece.
With overtime seemingly on the radar, Brampton’s Jordan Murray skated untouched end to end before poking the puck past Miochalek.
“The guys showed a lot in the third period battling back like they did, but they took a period off tonight and it cost us,’ Tetrault added. “We are young, but we are seven games into the season now and running out of excuses. We have to learn how to win and not let chances like this get by us.”
While it’s a little too early to panic, the month of November might nonetheless be a crucial step on the Rush’s (1-6-0-0) climb back to a more respectable spot in the ECHL Mountain Division standings as they play 10 of the next 11 games on home ice.
And the loss perhaps derailed the momentum gained from last Saturday’s win. Particularly for a young Rapid City squad — only three returnees from last year’s team on a roster heavily loaded with rookies and relative newcomers to the professional ranks.
“This is a big month for us, desperation time and we have to figure out how to be consistent,” Tetrault said. “We are 1-6 and that’s unacceptable. The guys showed determination in bouncing back which makes it all the more frustrating to lose on a fluke goal like that. We gave it all we had, but that’s just the way it’s going for us now.”
The two teams face off on Friday night (7:05) before concluding the three game series at the same time on Saturday.