Rapid City Rush coach Daniel Tetrault admitted after a 3-2 shootout win over the Utah Grizzlies Saturday night that it had been a long week.
The Rush had finished off a sweep of the Grizzlies, but in the days prior the franchise had made some major announcements.
Thursday, following a 1-0 win Wednesday over Utah, the Rush announced a series of moves.
Rapid City traded its captain Riley Weselowski to the Florida Everblades for Liam Bolton and Jack Riley (through Reading) and future considerations. Shaquille Merasty was traded to the Orlando Solar Bears for Taylor Crunk (through Fort Wayne) and Myles McGurty.
Alternate captain Josh Elmes was also traded, he went to the Fort Wayne Komets for Alex Rauter (through Manchester) and Pierre Luc-Mercier was sent to the Manchester Monarchs for Dexter Dancs.
On Friday before a 3-0 win over Utah, a new president was announced. Todd Mackin, formerly of the Kansas City Mavericks, took over Joe Macdonell's old post after he and the Rush mutually parted ways in December.
"It was an emotional, stressful day but a great day as well. We made those moves to better the team now and in the future," Tetrault said at Macklin's press conference of the trades. "There’s a sense of urgency to turn things around here and rebuild, and we’re getting great young players."
Partial Rush owner Jeff Dickerson admitted that Thursday was tough.
"On a personal level those are great guys, not only are they good players, they are decent human beings so it when started percolating up ... look I’m human," he said Friday. "When you fall in love with the team and then all of a sudden you have four guys who are part of the foundation of what we’re doing and they’re going to be wearing another team’s sweater next time they come in here, that’s a bittersweet moment."
Mercier was the Rush's leading scorer this season with 37 points, Merasty registered 24 points in 51 games and Elmes recorded 32 points in 117 career games with Rapid City.
Weselowski was the longest tenured player in Rush history, playing in 517 games. He was the second in franchise history in assists and the highest scoring defenseman in franchise history.
He was also Dickerson's youngest daughter's favorite player.
Dickerson said things like that make it difficult to separate the business side and personal side of professional sports, but he believes Rapid City treated the players with the most respect possible.
"When it comes to Elmes and Weselowski, we went to them and said ‘our phones are ringing off the hook, what do you want us to do?’ So that makes it a bit better," he said. "I’ve spoken to all of them and they were all super appreciative of their time here, they loved their time here and I just wanted to make sure they knew that we were super appreciative of them."
Tetrault and Dickerson said that as hard as it was to trade some franchise mainstays, they were happy with the players they got back.
"We have elite guys who have a lot of potential and a lot of talent, and they’re getting a great opportunity in Rapid City," Tetrault said. "They’re excited to be here and they’re going to help tremendously."
Some of that help started right away.
Friday night only Dancs and Rauter were able to suit up for the Rush, and both registered an assist. Rauter also brought the crowd to its feet when he fought with Utah's Will Smith in the second period.
Saturday Dancs assisted on a goal in the first period, and Rauter assisted on the 6-on-4 goal scored by Cedric Montminy with 13.7 seconds left that tied the game up, which the Rush would eventually win in overtime.
"It’s so cliché to say ‘hey, it’s part of the business and transactions are just part of it,’ and that’s true to an extent. We all have emotions, and that’s why I think it’s important to have these conversations," Dickerson said Friday. "Once you get away from the emotions, they’re going to drop a puck tonight and we’re going to put a team on the ice no matter what.
"When you look at it from a hockey perspective, we shipped out some real quality and we’ll be getting some quality that will be here for the long haul."
Rapid City sits at 25-29-5-3 with 58 points and will face Utah on the road Thursday.