More than once Saturday night it looked like the Rapid City Rush weren’t going to be sweeping the Utah Grizzlies.
After winning Wednesday and Friday, the Rush trailed 2-1 with less than a minute to go.
A penalty and some 6-on-4 hockey changed that.
Rapid City topped Utah in a shootout after Cedric Montminy scored the game tying goal with 13.6 seconds left, for the 3-2 win.
“To win like that and sweep Utah, what a great feeling, what a character win,” Rush coach Daniel Tetrault said. “My players never quit. Again (Adam) Carlson was great and the whole penalty kill, guys never quit and we tied it up and found a way to win in the shootout.”
Rapid City goalie Adam Carlson stopped 32 shots in the game, and denied all three shots in the shootout.
Tetrault admitted it has been a long week. Rapid City made a flurry of deals Thursday and its new president was announced Friday.
He said he was happy with the way the new players stepped into their roles.
“Guys really wanted to win after tying it up at the end,” he said. “The new guys were amazing. To have a big crowd like that, there was a lot of energy in the building. That’s huge for young guys coming in. They’re happy to be here, good things are going to come here and we’re not going to quit.”
The win moves the Rush to 25-29-5-3 with 58 points. They are currently in fifth place in the Mountain Division and eight points behind the Kansas City Mavericks for the final playoff spot.
“We believe we can win the rest of the season out,” Tetrault said. “We have the lineup now. We addressed the scoring and we had a lot of chances. (Utah goalie Kevin) Carr had a great game too. He made some big saves, especially in the second period.”
The first 10 minutes of the first period didn’t see much in the way of shots or scoring, as Utah recorded the first five shots, but Carlson stood tall.
The first penalty of the game didn’t come until there was only 6:57 left in the first, when Caleb Herbert of Utah was sent to the box for high sticking. Alex Rauter was called for a penalty only 52 seconds into the penalty for Rapid City.
The Grizzlies got on the board a few minutes later, scoring their first goal of the series on Carlson with a 4-on-4 goal from Cole Ully that was assisted by Herbert and Turner Ottenbrett with 4:13 to go in the first.
A few seconds later the Rush went on a power play that lasted 1:30, because Utah’s Jake Marchment was in the box for an infraction. New captain Justin Faryna made Utah pay.
After a scrum in front of Carr, Faryna slipped the puck by the Utah net minder to even up the game with 2:55 left in the period.
He was assisted by Montminy and Dexter Dancs.
The period ended with both teams tied at one as the Rush killed a penalty to end the first 20 minutes.
Utah had a shot hit off the goal pole with about 12 minutes to play in the second, but early on that looked to be as close as a team would get in the second 20 minutes.
With under four minutes to play in the period, Rapid City peppered a series of shots at Carr, but he stopped every one for the remainder of the period, including when Rapid City had a power play in the last 2:35.
The teams went into the second intermission tied at one.
For the majority of the third period the Rush were trying to kill off a penalty. Dancs started with seemingly back-to-back slashing calls, and then Garrett Klotz was sent away for five for a hit to the head of a Utah player with 12:36 remaining.
The penalty kill almost worked, as for four of the five minutes Rapid City was able to keep Utah out of the net, but with one minute left on the penalty kill and with 8:35 left in the game the Grizzlies found the back of the net on the stick of Jake Merchant on assists from Taylor Richart and Herbert.
The Rush were unable to find the back of the net, but got some hope renewed when with 1:39 to go Mike Economos of Utah was sent to the penalty box. Rapid City had a shot.
The Rush took that shot, and tied the game.
They pulled Carlson for the last 1:39, and had multiple chances before Montminy got the puck by Carr with just 13.6 seconds left. He was assisted by Zach Todd and Rauter. The game was on its way to overtime.
In overtime, the Rush were dealt another tough blow as in their crease, a Carlson tie-up led to Dancs going back to the penalty box for another slashing call.
Carlson and the Rush defense stood tall, killing the penalty with multiple big saves from the goalie.
Tetrault said that might have been the biggest penalty kill of the night, and it set-up a shootout where Carlson’s confidence signed through.
“Shootouts are 50-50, but you can tell Carlson has been dialed in during the last three games,” he said. “He was unbelievable. Overtime was unbelievable, and then in the shootout he stopped all three. He’s on his game, he’s confident and he’s pumped up, he’s a leader. He’s vocal and he’s calm in a way.”
Rapid City will face Utah, which is 32-20-4-4 with 72 points, for three more games next Thursday, Saturday and Monday, all in Salt Lake City.
Tetrault said he’s confident the momentum will continue for the Rush.
“It’s been the culture all year, and we added the pieces we needed,” he said. “We have more talent, more guys that can put the net and create chances. These new guys heard about the culture coming in. We’re young, fast and have a lot of energy, so the future is bright.”