RAPID CITY, SD — In a “Battle of Cellar Dwellers” the Quad City Mallards traveled to the Black Hills of South Dakota for the final series ever against the Rapid City Rush. The first game of the weekend clash took place on Friday night, when the Rush honored the franchise record setting career of Danny, “The Batman”, Battochio and raised his #30 into the rafters.
As a special tribute to Battochio the Rush signed him to a one-day contract as their backup goalie which allowed him to suit-up for the contest shortly after his jersey was retired.
The emotional high the home team and crowd were on would quickly come to a halt less than five minutes into the game. Jake Bolton came off the blue line to pick up a turn over and rifled the puck unassisted over the shoulder of Rush netminder Christian Frey for the early 1-0 lead with with 15:30 left in the opening period. Quad City doubled up on that lead at the 8:18 mark when Travis Armstrong took a close-range shot on net that was initially stopped but Frey but Armstrong secured his own rebound and the score to further distance the visiting Mallards.
Rapid City finally settled in and stepped up their protection of the net as the period began to wind down, but they had their work cut out for them after digging an early 2-0 hole.
The home team’s tempo continued into the middle frame and they were finally able to cash-in at the 7:33 mark. Pavel Jenys picked up a timely turnover and ripped the puck by the glove of Mallards netminder C.J. Motte to cut the deficit in have at 2-1. This was Jenys’ 17th tally on the season. Moments later there was stoppage in play while a panel of broken glass near the Rush bench was tended to. Whatever was discussed at the Rush bench during that nearly 13 minute break must have worked because a mere 13 seconds later Rapid City squared the contest back up at 2-2 when Alec Baer pocketed his second professional goal.
Both teams traded off scoring opportunities the remainder of the period but it wasn’t until the 14:14 mark that Quad City would regain the lead, Alexander Kuqali finding himself uncontested for the easy backhand slider that allowed the Mallards to reclaim the lead. Rapid City refused to go quietly into the night, however, as Andrew Radjenovic squared the game back up at 3-3 with 2:52 remaining in the game. The Rush held a slim lead in shots-on-goal through two periods of action, 26-to-24, and neither team could capitalize on their lone man-advantage scoring opportunities thus far.
While the opportunities were there in the final frame neither team could solve the opposing netminder which in turn forced the free, overtime period. And while we were hoping for it we didn’t get to see The Batman jump in for a few minutes during the 3rd period for that extra bit of nostalgia. Though seeing him suited up again was a rather enjoyable experience.
Deadlocked at 3-aside both teams would face off in a 3-on-3 sudden death overtime period. The Rush have seen their fair share of defeats when the game can’t be decided in regulation but the team would not allow that to happen and put any kind of negative vibes on such a festive evening. Just 63 seconds into OT and Daniel Leavens picks up his own rebound attempt and seals the 4-3 win in overtime over the visiting Mallards.
Shots-on-goal were virtually deadlocked with the Mallards holding a slim 37-to-36 edge and neither team could cash-in while on the man advantage tonight.
Christian Frey is credited with the win stopping 34-of-37 shots on the night while C.J. Motts takes the loss stopping 32-of-36 shots he faced.
Neither team will be making any post-season plans as both have been eliminated for some time and are just looking to play spoiler whenever possible.
Batman’s Jersey Retired
In an pre-game ceremony to honor the accomplishments of not only the professional accomplishments but the character of a noteworthy individual, the Rapid City Rush hoisted Danny Battochio‘s #30 into the rafters to join former Rush captain Scott Wray’s #17. Battochio would later suit-up as a backup goalie for the game as he signed a one-day contract with the team.
These two teams will square off for the final time ever in the Black Hills tomorrow night, Saturday, March 31st. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:05pm MT from the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center Ice Arena.