The road to the playoffs got a little rougher for the Rapid City Rush Friday night.
The Rush fell to Idaho 3-1 Friday night at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center, dropping their record to 27-31-5-3 with 62 points, seven behind the Kansas City Mavericks for the final playoff spot, Rapid Cit has six games remaining, while the Mavericks have nine.
“I thought it was a great game, tight checking. We lost to a first-place team,” Rapid City coach Daniel Tetrault said. “We gave them a run to the end, we couldn’t create enough chances, but the effort was there. The boys battled hard, but we were playing against a good team, you have to give them credit, they played well.”
Tetrault said he thought the Rush could have shot the puck more, but he said keeping his players focused on the playoff chase following the loss won’t be difficult.
The Mavericks fell to the South Carolina Stingrays Friday night 5-3 on the road.
“Overall, the effort was there, it was frustrating,” he said. “The good news is Kansas City lost tonight and we’re getting right back at it tomorrow. We’ll watch film, go through it and see where we can do better, especially offensively.”
Rapid City was outshot 32-30 — the 10th straight game where Rapid City had fewer shots.
Tetrault said he still isn’t concerned about the offense overall.
“It’s been great, we played great against Utah,” he said of the offense. “You’re playing one of the best teams in the league here (Idaho) and they played well defensively. They played physical, boxed out, so it was tough to get to the net. They’re a good team.”
The Steelheads were able to get shots early in the first period on Rapid City goalie Adam Carlson, but he turned the first 13 away in the period.
Offensively, Rapid City was not able to muster many shots in the first 10 minutes.
The first period ended with neither team scoring.
After relentless pressure, Idaho struck first with 8 minutes, 15 seconds to play in the second.
Off of rebound, A.J. White poked the puck by Carlson for the first goal. He was assisted by Nolan Gluchowski.
Rapid City was able to even the score by peppering the Idaho goalie with shots, and off a rebound Justin Faryna was able to light the lamp. He was assisted by Dylan Quaile and the goal came with 4:21 to go in the second.
Only 24 seconds after the goal, the Rush were put on a power play when Eric Sweetman was sent to the box. Rapid City was unable to take advantage of the opportunity and would end the night 0-for-2 on power plays.
The Steelheads would make the Rush pay before the period was over.
With 57.7 seconds left, Robbie Payne scored with an assist from Henrick Samuelsson to give Idaho the 2-1 edge going into the second intermission.
Tetrault said that goal was the back-breaker, and the Rush weren’t able to recover.
The Steelheads had a chance to add to the lead in the third when Chris Leibinger was sent to the penalty box with 15:15 to go in game, but they were unable to find the back of the net.
Rapid City got new life with 6:58 to go when Idaho’s Ondrej Vala was sent to the penalty box and the Rush went on a power play. Again, the opportunity came and went without Rapid City registering a shot on goal.
Idaho’s Steve McParland added an empty-net goal with three seconds remaining.
Carlson ended the night with 29 saves.
“He gave us a chance to win,” Tetrault said. “He was spectacular, you can’t ask for anything more. We only scored one goal. He’s dialed in and I’m probably going to ride him until the end. We just have to score more than one goal.”
Idaho improved to 38-22-3-2 with 81 points. The two teams will face each other again tonight at 7 from the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.
Kansas City is also in action tonight, as it faces the Atlanta Gladiators on the road.