Winning the Central Hockey League’s Ray Miron President’s Cup Finals still hasn’t registered for head coach Joe Ferras and the Rapid City Rush.
“I think it will start to sink in the next few days. Right now, we have so much going on,” Ferras said.
“In a week’s time, we’ll all be able to sit back and realize what we’ve done.”
What the Rush did was clinch the Cup with an electrifying 4-3, double-overtime victory over the Allen Americans in Game 6 of the CHL finals on Tuesday night at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.
The Rush split the opening pair of games in Rapid City on
April 23-24, then bowed in Game 3 in Allen on April 28.
From there, the Rush closed out the series 4-2 with three straight victories.
The Rush bounced back from multiple-goal deficits in two of the last three games, including Tuesday’s thriller that started with the Rush down 3-0 in the first period.
Rapid City climbed back into contention with goals from Gio Flamminio, Blaine Jarvis and Brendan Cook to force overtime.
That resiliency has served the Rush well.
“It’s that never-say-die attitude. We’ve done that so many times this year. The guys just seem to feed off each other,” Ferras said.
Rapid City’s postseason march to the CHL championship started with a 4-0 sweep of the Missouri Mavericks. The Northern Conference finals against the Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs saw each team swapping wins before Rapid City finally prevailed in Game 7 to earn a trip to the final round.
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Prevailing in must-win situations has been a Rush hallmark.
“Coming back from three-nothing is unbelievable. You couldn’t ask for a better effort,” said playoff MVP Les Reaney, who set up Scott Wray’s game-winner to send the sold-out Rushmore Plaza Civic Center Ice Arena crowd into pandemonium on Tuesday night.
With less than 40 seconds remaining in the second overtime, Reaney took the cross-ice feed from defenseman Dave Grimson in the neutral zone, charged into the Americans’ zone and fired the puck at Allen goalie Chris Whitley.
Whitley made his 60th save in the longest series-clinching game in CHL finals history, but Wray zeroed in and was in the right spot to have the rebound carom off Whitley’s chest into the open corner of the net.
Reaney’s helper gave him 17 assists which, added to his team-high nine goals, totals 26 points to earn him Finals MVP honors.
“It’s another award, but I couldn’t do it without all these guys,” Reaney said. “We just don’t give up on each other and that’s been our story all year long.”
Goaltender Danny Battochio smothered 34 shots over the final two periods of regulation and both overtimes after surrendering three goals on 15 shots in the first period.
The CHL Rookie of the Year and All-Rookie team goalie set a league playoff record, winning 12 playoff games en route to Rapid City’s title, according to the league’s website.
He couldn’t see the game-winning goal, but Battochio knew something good had happened.
“I just looked at the bench and saw all the guys going and knew it was over. It was just a big sigh of relief,” he said. “What an unbelievable feeling. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel anything like that again in my life.”
Ferras is ready to savor his first championship as a coach.
“Win or lose, I’ve never been prouder of a group of young men in my life,” he said.