Tyler Coulter registered the first hat trick of his North American professional career, Keeghan Howdeshell had four points to headline seven multi-point performances as the Rapid City Rush defeated the Tulsa Oilers by an 8-4 score on Saturday night. The win puts the Rush back into the Mountain Division playoff bracket with 15 games remaining in the regular season. Additionally, it puts the Rush’s magic number to clinch a Mountain Division playoff spot at 24.
For a second straight matchup, both rivals traded blows and left the first period tied at 1-1. Keeghan Howdeshell got things started 2:14 of the opening period when he received a centering pass from behind the net and slid a shot behind Oilers goalie Devin Williams to give the Rush an early 1-0 lead (Tanner Karty and Ryker Killins assisted). However, with 2:27 left in the period, the Oilers countered on their second power play of the frame, which came off of the second “too many men on the ice” minor committed by the Rush. Brent Gates Jr. deflected a shot past Rush net-minder Gordon Defiel to square the game at 1-1 heading into the dressing room (Adam Pleskach and Miles Liberati assisted).
The Rush exploded for three goals in the second period to start pulling away from the Oilers, with two coming on the man-advantage. With 6:32 gone by in the second, Tyler Coulter started his outstanding evening with a net-front rebound off of a Keeghan Howdeshell shot, tucking it behind Williams to give the lead back to the Rush at 2-1 (Howdeshell and Peter Quenneville assisted). Roughly five minutes later, Matteo Gennaro finished a hit behind the Oilers net on Cam Knight, creating space for himself on the backdoor. Stephane Legault hit him for a wide-open one-timer past Williams to extend the lead to 3-1 with 8:38 left in the second (Quenneville and Legault assisted). Coulter pocketed another net-front rebound in the midst of a four-on-three power play for his second of the night with 2:42 left in the second, increasing the lead to 4-1 (Quenneville and Howdeshell assisted). Following the tally, Williams was replaced after 37:18 of the game by Olle Eriksson Ek, who finished the remainder of regulation.
The Rush continued their hot streak into the opening minutes of the third period, and it was Keeghan Howdeshell for his second of the game on a maneuver he’ll never forget. Exactly 103 seconds into the third period, Howdeshell carried the puck on the goal line, skated behind the net, and executed “The Michigan” over Eriksson Ek’s shoulder to extend the Rush lead to 5-1 (Karty and Chris Leibinger assisted). Following the highlight-reel goal, both teams traded tallies to end the game. Brent Gates Jr. took a Miles Liberati pass into the Rush zone and rifled a shot off the post and in past Defiel to cut the Rush advantage to 5-2 at 2:38 of the third (Liberati assisted). Over a minute later, Coulter completed his hat trick at 3:31, burying a backdoor feed from Brennan Saulnier to push the Rush lead to 6-2 (Saulnier and Ryker Killins assisted). However, at 8:00 of the third, Gates Jr. fired back with another tally to complete his own hat trick on the power play, slamming in a rebound off of Defiel to make it a 6-3 game (Pleskach had the lone assist). Over five minutes later, Brennan Saulnier counterpunched skating from his own blue line, through the Oilers defense, into their zone, and tucked the puck past Eriksson Ek to re-establish the four-goal lead at 7-3 with 6:50 left in the game (Karty and Eric Israel assisted). Not to be outdone, Charlie Sampair deflected a Steven Ruggiero shot past Defiel with 5:24 left in the game to bring the tallies to a 7-4 count (Ruggiero and Danny Moynihan assisted). Matteo Gennaro, with less than three minutes to play in the game, ended the madness with an empty-netter from his own zone to bring the game to its electric final score of 8-4.
Gordon Defiel stopped 42 of 46 shots on net, earning his fourth win with the Rush (4-2-2-1 with the Rush, 4-4-2-1 overall).
The Rush continue their eight-game home stand with a rubber match against the Tulsa Oilers to conclude their “three-in-three” series this weekend. Puck drop for tomorrow, March 1st, is slated for 4:05 p.m. MDT at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center Ice Arena.