TULSA, OK — Dante Salituro’s four goals and five points re-wrote the record books of the Rapid City Rush as he, along with Daniel Leavens (5 assists), Willem Nong-Lambert (3 assists), Riley Weselowski (goal and assist), and Christian Frey (43 saves) helped power the Rush to a wild 9-6 win over the Tulsa Oilers to close out their 10th anniversary season.
Salituro provided both Rush goals in the first period as the team took a 2-1 lead into the dressing room. Salituro’s first strike came at the 7:53 mark of the first period when Daniel Leavens found him from the far corner in the high slot. Salituro unloaded for a one-timer that burned Oilers goalie Jake Hildebrand to give the Rush a 1-0 lead (Leavens had the lone assist). Salituro made it 2-0 on an odd-man rush into the Oilers zone, and rifled another shot by Hildebrand to make it a 2-0 game with 5:56 left in the first (Leavens and Peter Sivak assisted). On the back-end of the Rush double minor power play to close the period out, Ryan Tesink put the Oilers on the board when he finished a three-on-one break down the ice, and fired a Charlie Sampair shot by Rush net-minder Christian Frey on the backdoor to make it a 2-1 game with 46 seconds left in the period (Sampair and Eric Drapluk assisted).
Aaron Boyd kicked off the second period by re-establishing a multi-goal lead for the Rush in the opening minutes of the frame. With 3:40 gone by, Boyd scored his first of two in the period when he fired a shot from the high slot that went off the back bar and out over Hildebrand’s shoulder to make it a 3-1 Rush lead (Andrew Radjenovic had the only assist). Roman Ammirato closed the gap moments later on the final Oilers power play of the game when he slipped a sharp-angle shot by Frey in close range to make it a 3-2 Rush lead with 10:53 left in the second (Steve Kaunisto and Ryan Tesink assisted). Dante Salituro completed his hat trick in record time for a rookie to give the Rush a 4-2 lead when he deflected a Brayden Sherbinin shot past Hildebrand with 9:16 remaining in the second (Sherbinin and Leavens assisted). Moments later, Adam Pleskach closed the gap again to one goal when, while carrying a defender on his back, he cut to the slot and chipped a shot over Frey’s shoulder to make it a 5-3 game with 6:46 left in the middle act (Garrett Ladd and Charlie Sampair assisted). The Rush created some separation heading into the third on Boyd’s second goal and Andrew Radjenovic scored just over two minutes apart. Willem Nong-Lambert sent a saucer pass to Boyd entering the Oilers zone, and Boyd completed a nifty move to deke Hildebrand out of his net, slipping past the goalie with a tuck to make it 5-3 with 3:26 left in the period (Nong-Lambert and Andrew Radjenovic assisted). Radjenovic’s goal came with 61 seconds remaining in the period when a Nong-Lambert rebound came right to him in the slot to make it a 6-3 score heading into the final 20 minutes of the season (Nong-Lambert and Riley Weselowski assisted).
Tulsa didn’t back down in the already crazy affair and fired two goals less than two minutes apart to cut the deficit to one with over half of the period remaining. Kyle Rhodes took a pass off the blue line and down “Main Street” with a shot the zipped by Frey to bridge the gap to 6-4 for the Oilers with 13:20 left in the game, followed by Evan Richardson burying a Roman Ammirato pass from the high slot to bring the Oilers within striking distance at 6-5 with 11:47 left in the regular season. Riley Weselowski then scored the only power play goal of the game for the Rush on a Daniel Leavens rebound, continuting a play started by Dante Salituro to give the Rush a 7-5 lead 8:48 left in the game. In the final minutes of regulartion, Sam Wilbur deflected a loosely rolling puck in close range of Christian Frey to once again bring the Oilers within a goal, pushing the score to 7-6 in Rush favor with 2:41 remaining in regulation. 7-6 was as close as the Oilers would get, but that wouldn’t stop the Rush from setting a few records before the season ticked down to triple-zero. Jack Walker fired the puck into an empty net with 1:48 left in the game to make it an 8-6 game, followed by a laser of a strike from Dante Salituro 19 seconds later for his Rush rookie record fourth goal of the game with 89 seconds left in the season to bring the final game of the regular season to its 9-6 final score.
Christian Frey was sensational for a third straight game, stopping 43 of 49 shots in his third straight win and fourth victory in his last 5 outings (7-14-2-1).
The Rush set and tied a number of franchise records in the game. Dante Salituro notched four goals in the game, the most by a rookie in a single game in team history. Additionally, his five-point night gave him a final total of 48 points, the most by a rookie player in a Rush uniform in a single season in franchise history. Daniel Leavens’ five assists in the game is now the most by a rookie in a single game in team history. The Rush tied a franchise record with 9 goals scored in a single game, a feat that only once has been accomplished dating back to December 8, 2009 on the road in a 9-2 win over the then-Missouri Mavericks. Lastly, the 15 goals combined between the Rush and the Oilers marked the most goals scored between both teams in a single game in franchise history, breaking the previous high of 14 combined between the Fort Wayne Komets and Rush on home ice on March 4, 2016 in an 8-6 win.
On behalf of the Rapid City Rush organization: THANK YOU Rush Nation from the bottom of our hearts for helping make our 10th year anniversary a special season! We can’t do any of this without your love and loyal support! See you for year 11 next season when the 2018-19 ECHL season comes around in October!!!
On behalf of Free Sports Press: We’d like to thank the Rush Organization for allowing us, once again, to cover the Rush for our readers this season. We’re looking forward to seeing the player movement that occurs during the off-season and what roster is lined up for Year 11 of Rush Hockey in the Black Hills. Stay tuned to our Summer Giveaway of various Rush merch that we’re sure you’ll love to get your hands ons!
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It’s the Sights of the Game, presented by Black Hills Regional Eye Institute.