Copyright 2013. Hector Acevedo.
This afternoon's tilt was the final home game of the regular season for the Denver Cutthroats, the CHL's newest franchise.
The first period saw a lot of back and forth play between the Fish and the Rapid City Rush, but not a lot of chances for either team. The few that did make it through were quickly and deftly handled by each goaltender. The big news of the period was the penalties. The Cutthroats spent 8 minutes in the box, while the Rush spent 6 minutes themselves. Neither team's power play produced much danger. The period ended scoreless.
The second period saw a lot more physicality between the teams and even more penalties. Three consecutive fights had six guys sitting in the box at one point. The hits increased, too, as the Cutthroats started throwing the bodies around, getting some big hits on the Rush in an attempt to interrupt their momentum and flow. Although it generated numerous high quality chances—including multiple two-on-ones—Rush goaltender Danny Battochio was making magic, flashing the glove to rob AJ Gale, Michael Trebish, and Jaimie MacQueen, among others. Kent Patterson wasn't a slouch on the other end of the ice. That second period saw plenty of highlight reel saves from the Fish goaltender.
The real entertainment came when the Cutthroats's Adam Smyth threw down with Rapid City's Justin Sawyer. Smyth got the crowd going as he skated to the box, pumping up the energy in the building.
However, the Rush were the first to get on the board with 8:10 left in the second. After a failed attack by the Cutthroats, the Rush answered right back, streaking through center ice. A pass onto Rusty Masters' stick paved the way for the forward to wrist one past Patterson, putting Rapid City up 1-0.
The Cutthroats dominated play for most of the second half of the middle frame, but it was the Rush to put the biscuit in the basket for their second of the night. With just under 40 seconds left, a pretty tic-tac-toe set up Scott Wray to give Rapid City a two-goal lead going into the third.
Denver didn't waste any time, putting one home with just over one minute expired in the third. Mikael Bedard sent a sweet little saucer pass to a net-crashing Gabe Gauthier, bringing the Fish within one. AJ Gale, not to be outdone, added another just a few minutes later. Picking up a loose puck just inside the Rush blueline, Gale streaked into the zone and ripped one past Battochio, sending it over his glove and banking off the cross bar. Battochio had no chance on it. With about 15 minutes left in the final period, the Cutthroats evened it up at 2.
On the next shift, the Rush went on the power play as Gauthier got two minutes of shame. Between sprawling saves by Patterson, strong D by Denver, and a problem with skating by the Rush pointmen, the boys kept the score at two apiece.
The tie didn't last long as the Rush forward Justin Faryna sent one zipping past Patterson, returning the away team's lead to one.
With just under ten to go in the game, Faryna decided to be a dirty bastard and throw Joel Chouinard head first into the boards. Thankfully Chewy was okay. Even more thankfully, the resulting power play cashed in. Chouinard let a bomb fly from the point, MacQueen got a tip on it and the rebound bounced right onto Brad Smyth's stick. Good guys tied it up at three with just under ten minutes remaining in regulation.
A late power play chance for Denver put the pressure on Rapid City, but the Rush were up to the challenge and sent the game into overtime.
Rapid City killed the rest of the penalty, putting the teams back to four-on-four hockey. Gale and Troy Schwab nearly ended it with two minutes left but, as he'd done all night, Battochio committed highway robbery with a flash of the glove. Overtime expired, and the teams went to the shootout.
It took six shooters—and three posts—for the game to be decided. MacQueen scored for the Fish, but both Wray and Jesse Shultz hit twine, giving the Rush a 4-3 win. The Cutthroats finish the regular season on the road.
Three Stars of the season:
3. Brad Smyth
2. AJ Gale
1. The Denver Cutthroats fans
Great inaugural season, boys. Now let's get that playoff spot locked in!