Down 3-0 at one point in the contest, Tyler Coulter and Brennan Saulnier helped spearhead a comeback that saw Darian Romanko end it 40 seconds into overtime to give the Rapid City Rush a 5-4 win over the Utah Grizzlies on Friday night. The game, serving as a game-in-hand against the Tulsa Oilers, now puts the Rush into a tie for the fourth and final Mountain Division playoff bracket with Tulsa with 13 games remaining in the season.
Utah started off with a 3-0 lead in the first period before the Rush got on the board to end the frame. Just 54 seconds into the action, Jack Jenkins flipped a backhand past Rush net-minder Tyler Parks to give the Grizzlies a 1-0 lead less than a minute into the action (Joe Wegwerth earned the lone assist). Moments later, Yuri Terao fired a slap shot from the near wall that squeaked through Parks’ five-hole and in, giving Utah a quick 2-0 lead at 3:26 of the period (Ty Lewis and Connor Yau assisted). The second goal on five shots in 3:26 prompted the substitution of Parks in net, and led to Gordon Defiel taking over goaltending responsibilities for the remainder of the game.
Defiel was left in a tough situation in the midst of a five-minute major penalty kill, and had to face a three-on-one break due to a neutral zone turnover. A tic-tac-toe passing play led to Joe Wegwerth finishing with an open net shot past Defiel to make it a 3-0 Grizzlies lead with 4:$4 remaining in the period (Lewis and Terao assisted). On the same major penalty kill, however, Rush Captain Peter Quenneville counterpunched when he took a rolling puck from the neutral zone into the Grizzlies third, and from the near wall rifled a shot past Utah goalie Martin Ouellette to get the Rush on the board, trailing 3-1 with 3:58 left in the first (the goal was unassisted).
Tyler Coulter provided the only goal of the second period and brought the Rush back within striking distance as the game transitioned to the third. With 4:27 left in the second, Brennan Saulnier found Coulter on a cross-ice pass down low. Coulter waited out both the traffic in front and Ouellette in his crease, and slammed the puck home to cut Utah’s lead to 3-2 (Saulnier had the lone assist).
Utah pulled away again by a pair early in the third period, but the Rush stormed back with another pair of goals in the final minutes to force free hockey. Eric Williams put Utah back up by two when he came off the bench on a change, crept in off the blue line, and rifled a shot off the back bar by Defiel to give Utah a 4-2 lead with 4:44 gone by in the final period (Connor Yau and Brandon Saigeon assiste). In the last five minutes, the Rush took over again. Brennan Saulnier put the Rush back in striking distance when he collected a loose puck near the crease area and stuffed it by Ouellette, cutting the Rush deficit to 4-3 with 5:07 left in the game (Tanner Karty and Joe Rutkowski got the assists, the latter earning his first professional point in his debut). In the last minute, Tyler Coulter provided the clutch shot that sent the game to overtime. In a mad scramble with 43.7 seconds remaining, Coulter found the puck amidst a sea of bodies and tucked it by Ouellette to square the game at 4-4 (Peter Quenneville and Matteo Gennaro assisted).
Darian Romanko stuck the dagger in the Grizzlies, giving the Rush the all-important second point and the win. Just 40 seconds into overtime, Brennan Saulnier dipped by a defender, centered the puck to the slot, and watched Romanko fire it by Ouellette’s glove to complete the comeback in a win for the Rush, 5-4 after 60:40 of hockey.
Tyler Parks started the game, but was substituted after allowing a pair of goals on five shots in 3:26 of game action. Gordon Defiel earned the win in 56:30 of relief, stopping 17 of 19 shots (5-2-2-1 with the Rush, 5-4-2-1 overall).