ECHL Series Preview: Rapid City Rush vs. Utah Grizzlies | 3/22-24/2024

Em Behringer/InsideTheRink

The Rapid City Rush are back on home ice this week to take on the Utah Grizzlies in a three-game series.

Last Week

Last week, the Rush traveled to Independence, Missouri, to take on the Kansas City Mavericks, the top team in the ECHL currently. The Rush lost 8-3 in the first game but were then able to pull off a 5-4 shootout win the second night. While the Rush were able to outshoot the Mavericks almost 2-1 in both games, outshooting them 41-24 in the first game and 40-29 in the second game, they played a lot better the second night and played a lot better defensively. With their pretty significant shootout win in the series finale, the Rush should be bringing some momentum into this weekend to snap their home game losing streak.

Milestones

If activated from injured reserve, defenseman TJ Fergus could play in his 100th ECHL game, as he currently sits at 98. This season, Fergus has played in 36 games for the Rush, with two goals and 14 assists for 16 points. He has ten penalty minutes and a plus/minus of -6. In 98 ECHL games played, Fergus has six goals and 32 assists for 38 points. He has 18 penalty minutes and a plus/minus of -7.

Hot Hands

The Rush have three players coming into this series who have had hot hands recently. Rush forward Billy Constantinou is coming into this weekend with one goal and six assists for seven points in his last five games, including a three-point night in Rapid City’s last game. This season with the Rush, Constantinou has played in 19 games where he has two goals and ten assists for 12 points. He has zero penalty minutes and a plus/minus of -8.

Rush forward Blake Bennett is coming into this series with seven goals and three assists for ten points in his last nine games. This season with the Rush, Bennett has played in 60 games, and he has 28 goals and 18 assists for 46 points. He has 34 penalty minutes and a plus/minus of -16.

Arguably, the player on the Rush with the hottest hands on the Rush right now is forward and captain Alex Aleardi. Aleardi is currently on a ten-game point streak with six goals and nine assists for 15 points, including a two-goal game in Rapid City’s last outing. This season, Aleardi has played in all 60 games for the Rush, where he has 23 goals and 39 assists for 62 points. He has 51 penalty minutes and a plus/minus of -1.

This Week

The Rush are back to having home-ice advantage this weekend against the Utah Grizzlies, but the Rush have not seen positive effects from being on home ice, and the Grizzlies have seen their fair share of struggles on the road this season. The Grizzlies are currently sitting fourth in the Mountain Division in the last playoff spot with a record of 28-30-3-0 for 59 points and a .484 win percentage. The Grizzlies are 9-21-1-0 on the road and are 4-4-2-0 in their last ten games. They are also coming into the weekend on a three game point streak with a record of 2-0-1-0 in that time. Meanwhile, the Rush still sit last in the Mountain Division ten points out of a playoff spot with a record of 23-34-3-0 for 49 points and a win percentage of .408. The Rush are 8-18-1-0 at home this season and are 4-5-1-0 in their last ten games played. These two teams have seen each other earlier in the season and have had a pretty evenly split series, with the Rush going 2-3-1-0 against the Grizzlies this season.

One advantage that the Grizzlies may take advantage of this week is all the new faces on the Rush. The Rush will be trying to quickly build chemistry with their new guys and fill holes left by the players who recently left in this week’s transactions, all while trying to take points away from the Grizzlies to continue their playoff push. With the Rush also losing forward Logan Nelson to an injury, the Rush will need other players to step up to fill the hole left by Nelson, specifically when it comes to offense and scoring goals/setting up plays.

The games this weekend will be played with a lot of desperation from both teams as the Grizzlies are looking to hold onto that last playoff spot, and the Rush are looking to make a push for that last playoff spot. Games against the Grizzlies are usually pretty physical and hard fought, but with both teams making playoff pushes, there will most likely be an extra amount of hunger for wins from both sides. The last time these two teams saw each other was only two weeks ago in Utah when the Rush took the series two games to one. With the Rush upsetting the Grizzlies on their home ice, the Grizzlies will be looking to do the same this weekend on Rapid City’s ice.

The series will kick off Friday, March 22, with puck drop at 7:05 pm MST and will continue Saturday, March 23, with puck drop at 7:05 pm MST again. The series will wrap up Sunday, March 24, with the normal Sunday puck drop at 4:05 pm MST.

Felicity Harding

Hello! I'm Felicity and I mainly cover the Rapid City Rush in the ECHL here at Inside the Rink. You can find me on Instagram and X/Twitter at @fharding05

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