As the Rush left the ice Saturday night after a 4-3 overtime loss to the Colorado Eagles, Rapid City coach Daniel Tetrault stayed back to have a word with referee Kenny Anderson.
Tetrault was not happy.
A penalty at the beginning of overtime put Riley Weselowski in the penalty box only 22 seconds into the period, and about a minute later a power-play goal from Michael Joly ended it.
It was the first overtime or shootout loss by the Rush this season.
"Marginal calls, both teams are not happy with him," Tetrault said of Anderson. "It's the fourth time this year with the same guy. I'm proud of the effort, the guys played their hearts out. It's just too bad that officiating has to take over the game.
"It's inconsistent. You never know what they're going to call, or what Kenny Anderson is going to call; you never know. Let the teams play. It's two good teams going at it, don't dictate the game just let the teams play out, unless it's an obvious call. It's a special teams battle and fans want to watch 5-on-5 hockey, and the coaches want 5-on-5 hockey. If it's obvious call it, but a lot of calls you don't know what he's calling. It's just frustrating."
Friday night the Rush let a third-period lead get away from them in a 6-4 loss to the Eagles. Saturday night the script was the same, as Raid City came into the third with a 3-2 lead but surrendered a goal in that period and ultimately the game winner.
"We had to kill a penalty or two in the third period and guys are tired from killing penalties. But they have a great team, they're first overall," Tetrault said of the Eagles. "They have a tremendous team, but we battled hard, even in the third. Adam Vay had a great game, we got a point and we go forward from there."
The first Eagle goal came on a pretty pass from Matt Grabowsky to Jesse Mychan with 8:30 remaining in the period. Matt Register was also credited with an assist.
The Rush’s first opportunity came when Jack Walker was taken down from behind on his way to the goal and given a penalty shot. Walker has been on fire since joining the team, but barely missed putting the puck by Colorado goalie Sam Brittain, clanging it off the cross-bar with 4:44 to go.
After scoring his goal, Mychan and Michael Sdao became a very interesting side show in the first period.
The two exchanged words and shoves on a face-off with 6:30 to go in the period, spending two minutes in the penalty box before any punches could be thrown; but punches would be thrown eventually.
Upon exiting the penalty box, the two went after each other, with Sdao appearing to get more punches in before both were tossed for the night.
The first period ended without other fireworks or goals, as Colorado led 1-0 even with Rapid City outshooting it 8-6.
It only took 50 seconds into the second for the Rush to even the score. Pavel Jenys scored his 10th goal of the season on a hard slap shot from assists by Kenton Miller and and Geoff Fortman.
Colorado was quick to respond, in particular the league’s top goal scorer was quick to respond. Michael Joly was able to slice through the Rapid City defense to score his 23rd goal of the season and give the Eagles the lead.
Jenys wasn’t done, as he scored on another slap shot with 10:50 remaining in the period off assists from Peter Sivak and Gustav Bouramman.
Three minutes later it was Bouramman celebrating, as he scored his fourth goal of the season to put Rapid City up 3-2.
That is how the period would end. Colorado outshot the Rush 9-6, but Rapid City held on to the lead.
The game remained chippy throughout, with no major incidents for the rest of the way.
Colorado started the third on the aggressive end like Friday night. Vay was able to stand tall, until Mychan struck again.
A shot that Vay was able to dive and save glove-side bounced off him as he was diving, leaving a large portion of the net open. The puck found the stick of Mychan, and from there a flick of the wrist tied the game.
The Rush were unable to get much going at any point in the third period, generating only three shots in the final 20 minutes.
Colorado had a flurry of shots in the final minute of the third, but Vay stood tall and the game went to overtime.
In overtime, the Weselowski penalty forced Rapid City to play conservative, and that's when Joly struck. Mychan and Register got the assists.
Tetrault said he was happy with the Rush's efforts, and said although they wanted two, even getting one point to close out the calendar year was important.
"It's a big lift, it's a big point but the main thing is just playing well," he said. "We're starting to get mometum from playing the right way, and guys responded well after a tough loss (Friday) night. I'm very proud of my guys, they battled hard against the first overall team."
The Rush (8-21-1-0) hit the road for the next few weeks, starting a six-game roadtrip Friday against the Utah Grizzlies.