The Rapid City Rush are pulling out all the stops for the 10th Anniversary season this fall. The off-season is still underway as the month of July draws nears but the last several weeks have had some inspired announcements about the direction this team is heading.
The off-season kicked off with a bang in April when it was announced that Mark DeSantis would no longer be the bench boss heading into “Year 10”. His record of 38-47-11 over 96 games definitely didn’t sit well with a fickle fan base looking for this team to get back to the post season.
Rapid City Rush owner Luke Peterson said in a statement: “Today was a very hard decision both personally and for the Rush organization. We would like to wish Mark Desantis the very best in his future.”
Then the upswings started and the new direction of this team slowly came to light.
On April 27th the Rush announced a 10-year lease renewal with the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center. This announcement would help to quiet the rumors swirling around a possible franchise move in the coming years if the team continued to have poor ticket sales and a lackluster record in the standings.
Then Assistant Coach Daniel Tetrault is optimistic on what the future holds for the Rush in Rapid City. Tetsy added “it’s a big announcement, it’s exciting. To be here ten years and then to renew the contract with the Civic Center for another ten years it’s huge for the city, it’s huge for the fans, and especially for the minor hockey kids too.”
Tetsy would have even more news to be excited about as he was named as the franchise’s third head coach on June 9th.
“We were presented with many interested candidates for this position, and after careful consideration, we as an ownership group decided to choose Daniel Tetrault to lead us into our 10th anniversary season as the next Head Coach of the Rapid City Rush,” stated Rush Majority Owner Scott Mueller which was met with thunderous applause and cheers from all in attendance.
The energy during that press conference was felt by all in attendance and the speech given by Tetsy definitely gave the media and fans in attendance a great sense of excitement for this new season.
The month of June continued with the news of a new NHL/AHL affiliation, one that should benefit the Rush a lot more than their previous affiliation.
“This is a very important day for the Rush organization as we enter into our 10th anniversary season. We are thrilled to announce that the Rush has entered into an agreement to serve as the exclusive ECHL affiliate of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild and AHL’s Iowa Wild,” said Rush General Manager, Joe Ferras.
It is true that the fan base for the Minnesota Wild is strong in the Black Hills and the demand for jerseys with the Wild logo on them have picked up immensely. Along with that there is a greater possibility of local players getting called up to markets that are broadcast in Western South Dakota. Here’s to hoping this new affiliation brings a better level of talent both up and downstream for the coming season.
Then the player signings began.
On June 20th the Rush were able to ink a pair of rookies from last season. Defensemen Geoff Fortman and Vinny Muto both signed on for the 2017-18 season after beginning their respective professional careers in the Black Hills last season.
Fortman had an immediate impact in the nine games he played with the Rush last season, registering four goals and four assists respectively while Muto was able to tally a pair of assists in the twelve games he played in a Rush jersey.
Rapid City was also able to secure veteran forward Kenton Miller from the Elmira Jackals where he amassed 30 goals and 15 assists in the 63 games he played with the New York club.
Heading into July the Rush were able to successfully tender qualifying offers to eight players.
Forwards: Ryan Walters, Lindsay Sparks, Kyle Dutra
Defensemen: Alex Mikulovich, Kevin Gibson, Nick Walters
Goalies: Adam Morrison, Luke Siemens
Hopefully we can get word on these players signing an official contract by August 1st. This is a powerful group of players and will definitely add to a solid base to sign other talented players going forward.
Which brings us to the latest signings in the month of July. And they are big ones.
Logan Nelson officially inked his return to the Black Hills on July 13th as he looks to continue the success he had in the Black Hills in 2017. After his return to the Rush after New Years he tallied 10 goals and 15 assists in 31 games with the Rush.
“The feeling of coming back to such a great community is exciting to me. I’ve had the privilege of playing with Coach Tetrault and also having him as an assistant coach, so I know his passion for the game is endless. I know he’s going to do everything in his power to bring a team full of good guys and winners together,” said Nelson on coming back to Rapid City.
Not to overshadow the player signings the Rush brought in Nello Ferrara as the team’s Assistant Coach for the upcoming season.
Ferrara has played ten season of professional hockey across six different leagues including the ECHL, CHL, and IHL. He was a teammate of now Rush Head Coach Daniel Tetrault on the Port Huron Icehawks of the IHL.
“It feels absolutely great to have this announcement today. I’m very optimistic and confident that our plan to rebuild a dominant force in minor league hockey will be extremely successful,” said Ferrara on joining the Rush organization.
And just yesterday the Rush announced the return of forward Anthony Collins, who had a career year in the Black Hills last season which included playing in his 200th professional game on January 7th against the Utah Grizzlies.
“I am so happy to have a guy like Anthony back! He’s a team-first player and will do anything for his teammates,” Rush Head Coach Daniel Tetrault said of re-signing Collins. “Anthony is one of the toughest players in the league, and can also produce offensively when given the opportunity.”
The player signing may have been overshadowed by a double-edged sword.
News broke yesterday of GM Joe Ferras leaving the organization for a scouting job with the NHL’s New Jersey Devils.
In a release sent to season ticket holders Ferras stated “It has been a pleasure to have worked with so many dedicated staff members in the front office, and an absolute honor to have coached many fine young men that have represented the Rapid City Rush throughout the years.”
Ferras has been with the organization from the beginning serving as the original head coach and leading the team to the CHL’s Presidents’ Cup Championship in 2010 before also taking over as the team’s GM.
We’ll definitely be keeping our eyes and ears peeled for who takes over this position but having fresh blood may not be such a bad idea when it comes to keeping this team relevant within the community and inspiring new ideas to draw in greater crowds each night.
While there is still a lot of off-season left before the first puck drops in October you can’t deny the change in the air in the Black Hills. The Rush are looking to make some noise in their 10th season.
Go Big or Go Home.
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It’s the Sights of the Game, presented by Black Hills Regional Eye Institute.