RAPID CITY, SD — What kind of difference does an off-season make?
More like what kind of difference does a single weekend series make.
Heading into the 2018-19 season the Rapid City Rush were up against the ropes looking for ways to turn around numerous downfalls the jewel franchise of the Black Hills were facing.
The Boys from the Black Hills have finished last in the Mountain Division the previous two seasons and fourth in the West Division during the 2015-16 season. The last time they qualified for the playoffs was their first season in the ECHL (2014-15) when most of their competition was former CHL teams that made the last-second leap to the ECHL.
Their average crowd size peaked at 4,932 for the 2010-11 season after they won the Ray Miron Presidents’ Cup in the CHL but still didn’t drop below 4,497 through the 2013-14 season. Since joining the ECHL it has dramatically dropped each year ending at 3,053 last season and they are only averaging 2,204 for the current season.
We’ve made this comment before but it looks as though the best thing to happen to this team may be dropping their affiliation with the NHL/AHL. Too many times since getting an affiliate they would see players get on a hot-streak and get called up causing the next level which would throw the chemistry off as other players were sent down to replace them.
Fast forward to this off season and the announcement is made that the Rush will no longer have an affiliate at the NHL/AHL level.
The Rush got off to their typical start to the season losing a tough road series to Utah being out-scored 10-4.
Since that series, however, the Rush have yet to lose a game by more than a single goal with one loss coming in regulation (3-2 to Kansas City on 10/20) and two during extra hockey (3-2 in a shootout on 10/26 and 6-5 in overtime on 10/27, both to Allen).
The Rush used the fuel of rallying from a 5-0 deficit against Allen to force OT and gain a point in the standings to garner a 2-0 win in regulation that gave them 4-out-of-6 points in that three-game series.
Would that momentum carry into a road trip to Tulsa to take on a top team in the division?
In season’s past it would have been anyone’s guess as the team was so full of ups-and-downs you never knew which team was going to take the ice each night.
But this year’s edition is coming together to fight through any adversity.
They aren’t afraid of being down and they refuse to throw in the towel, as was evident in winning all three games against the Oilers in extra hockey that propelled them from the basement of the Mountain Division to a tie for first play with Tulsa by the end of the weekend.
While the first month of the season is never a true indicator of how a season will finish it at least gives the fans in the Black Hills hope that their team is finally turning the corner.
We tried to get a statement from Rush head coach Daniel Tetrault on his thoughts through the opening month of the season but received no response so far.
Should the recent wins and starting the season at 5-3-1-1 (12pts) continue through the month of November then we’d be surprised it the attendance doesn’t start to climb heading into December.
If you’re looking for a great weekend (or mid-week) form of entertainment then we highly recommend you check out a Rush game. We’re sure you’ll get your money’s worth and are sure to see something spectacular.
On a side note, we were cleaning out our office this weekend and came across a few trinkets we forgot to give away a few seasons ago.
We have a total of nineteen (19) photos, with all but three being autographed. Most of them are from the 2015-16 season and feature the likes of Winston Day Chief, Marek Langhamer, Spencer Pommells, Scott Brannon, and Danny Battochio.
Here’s a small sampling to wet your whistle:
Look for information about this giveaway to be hitting our website and social media by the middle of next week.
We are proud supporters of the Rapid City Rush and this is our way to give back to our loyal readers.