Better late than never on a Friday night at the Rushmore Plaza Ice Arena. Trailing the Mountain Division leading Idaho Steelheads throughout the game, the Rapid City Rush exhibiting a never-say-die attitude rallied from a 2-0 deficit in the final seven and half minutes tying the game with 2:02 remaining and sending the game to overtime.
And after a seven-minute overtime period left the game still knotted at 2-all, Tyler Coulter went to the backhand in the shootout for the 3-2 game winner as the Rush improved to 4-0 at home on the season while recording the a second consecutive win over the division leaders.
“I was just waiting to see what he would give me,” Coulter said of his goal after six teammates had been stuffed by Idaho goalie Tomas Sholl. “When the other guys had shot, he was taking up a lot of the net, and so I thought I would give him a deke and everybody gets lucky once, right?”
Rush goalie Tyler Parks (34 saves on the night) closed out the night with a rejection of A.J. White, the last of seven big stuffs in the shootout.
The late game excitement that brought the crowd to its feet throughout the remainder of the game came with 7:35 remaining. Afforded the second power play of the final frame, the power play unit that had came up empty on previous chances finally converted when defenseman Trey Phillips (second of the year) drilled a slapper from just inside the blue line to draw with one goal at 2-1. Peter Quenneville added his 11th assist of the season on the tally and Tyler Poulsen tallied his fourth helper of the year.
Energized by the first goal of the night, the Rush applied constant pressure in the remaining and with 2:02 remaining, team leading scorer Giovanni Fiore wristed in the game tying goal from the face-off circle to the left of goalie Sholl.
“Poulsen was down low and he found me and I was able to follow the back of the net,” Fiore said. “They are a good team, but we battled hard and were relentless and stayed on it. No matter what the score is we are always going to battle and we did it tonight and got two points.”
After the Rapid City Rush throttled visiting Idaho 5-1 in the opener of a three-game series on Wednesday, one thing was almost a dead certainty coming into the Friday night contest. The Steelheads, the Mountain Division leaders (16 points), pride pricked a bit from Wednesday’s demolishing (including a 3-0 deficit after one period) would come out with a vengeance in the opening period.
And with a little attitude and a willingness to body up on the boards.
Given that mindset, it was inevitable that a couple of gloves-off skirmishes would eventuate, and they did, the main event a shoving an exchange of punches involving Rush forward Taylor Crunk. Otherwise, the period was evenly played (8-7 shot advantage Idaho) though Parks was called upon to make some big stops during a lengthy Idaho power play in which the Rush struggled to clear the zone.
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And on the other end, Poulsen was foiled on a breakaway opportunity midway through the period after a Rapid City power play chance failed to produce a shot on goal while nearly surrendering a short-handed goal.
Unfortunately for the Rush, the second period was a matter of opportunities missed, chances given, and bounces unfortunately directed.
The first Idaho goal of the night resulted when a deflected puck slid to Steelhead Anthony Nellis conveniently situated in the low slot and Nellis beat Park with a wrister to the stick side.
The big opportunity missed came at the 7:36 mark of the period when Idaho’s Marc-Olivier Roy was whistled off on a high sticking double minor setting up a four-minute Rush power play opportunity. Despite controlling the puck in the Idaho zone for extended stays, the Rush were only able to generate three shots on goal during the four-minute stretch and none of them found the net.
A Rush penalty provided the chance given when Taylor Crunk was sent to the sin bin on a tripping minor. With but 20 seconds remaining in the penalty kill, Idaho’s Eric Sweetman added put Idaho up 2-0 through two periods.
The Rush came out flying early in the third period and though able to work the puck effectively at times were unable to get the puck on net each time before fortune finally shined on the Rush in the hectic final minutes.
“We were just a step behind most of the night, but in the third period for some reason we found our legs and started getting pucks deep and getting on the forecheck,” Rush coach Danny Tetrault said. “And after we got the first power play goal you could tell the momentum changed and we were full of energy. It’s a long season and sometimes things just don’t go your way and that was the case in the first two period. But to come back and win like that shows a lot of character.”
The win catapulted the Rush (16 points) into a tie with Idaho for the top spot in the Mountain Division.
The Rush (7-3-2-0) and Steelheads (7-3-2-0) close out this week’s three-game series on Saturday night (7:05).