Rush Sweep Thunder
(RAPID CITY, SD) - Chris Leibinger scored twice to give the Rapid City Rush a 4-1 lead after 20 minutes, hanging on despite a Wichita Thunder surge for a 7-4 win on Saturday night. The win gives the Rush a sweep of the Thunder, and also gives Assistant Coach Nello Ferrara a win in the stead of Head Coach Daniel Tetrault, who was suspended for the contest.
The Rush came out firing in the first period, not only outshooting the Thunder by a 15-7 margin, but also outscored them in the first 20 minutes 4-1. Chris Leibinger started things off for the Rush with his first of two on the contest, slamming a Shaquille Merasty rebound by Thunder goalie Ty Rimmer to put the Rush up 1-0 just 3:55 into the contest (Merasty and Matt Harrington assisted). Wichita drew the game level moments later when Pierre-Cedric Labrie rifled a shot in close range over the shoulder of Rush net-minder Adam Carlson, squaring the game at 1-1 at 6:30 of the first (Jared Wilson and Steven Iacobellis assisted). The Rush then pulled away from Wichita with three unanswered goals to end the period, and four carrying over into the second, starting with Leibinger's second of the night. Just 1:26 following Labrie's tally, Leibinger entered the zone on a Merasty pass, and fired a laser off of Rimmer's glove to give the Rush a 2-1 lead at 7:56 of the first (Merasty had the lone assist). Off of a faceoff moments, later, Michael Turner won the puck to Darby Llewellyn, who found Fehd with space on the blue line. Fehd patiently waited and fired a shot through traffic that beat Rimmer, pushing the Rush advantage to 3-1 with 7:26 left in the first (Turner and Llewellyn assisted). Justin Faryna then notched a goal of his own on the only Rush power play of the period, burying a Willem Nong-Lambert rebound that came off of a Richard Coyne shot, giving the Rush a 4-1 lead after 20 minutes (Nong-Lambert and Coyne assisted).
Both teams traded a goal in the second period, but the Rush maintained their three goal lead heading into the final frame. Just 3:30 into the second, on the third Rush power play of the contest, Tyler Poulsen took a Pierre-Luc Mercier pass in the slot area and rifled it by Rimmer, giving the Rush a 5-1 lead (Mercier and Josh Elmes assisted). Wichita then began a three-goal comeback, starting with Lane Bauer's shorthanded tally to end second period scoring. With 6:58 left in the second, on the fourth Rush power play of the game, Jakob Stukel got in a foot race in the Rush zone and beat his man to the puck, eventually finding Bauer open in the slot for a shot by Carlson to make it a 5-2 Rush lead heading into the third period (Stukel had the lone assist).
Wichita continued their push when Richard Coyne and Dylan Quaile were called for penalties on the same sequence, resulting in a full two-minute 5-on-3 power play. Jeremy Beaudry rifled a one-timer from Taylor Cammarata to cut the Rush lead to 5-3 with 5:45 gone by in the final period (Cammarata and Travis Brown assisted). Exactly 75 seconds later, Stefan Fournier deflected a Keoni Texiera shot for a standard power play goal, cutting the deficit to 5-4 with 13:00 left in the game (Texiera and Mark MacMillan assisted). With just over two minutes remaining, Fournier was called for a double-minor high-sticking penalty, putting the Rush on the power play for the rest of the game. Tyler Poulsen and Shaquille Merasty sealed the deal with empty net goals, leading the Rush to a 7-4 win.
Adam Carlson stopped 28 of 32 shots, earning the win in the sweep of the Thunder (13-13-2-2).
The Rush travel to Boise to take on the Idaho Steelheads in a three-game series next week. Puck drop for game one in CenturyLink Arena is slated for 7:10 p.m. MST on Wednesday, February 13th.
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