The Flames have officially said goodbye to the horsepower of the Kansas City Mavericks and introduced a new ECHL affiliate: The Rapid City Rush! The deal was announced on August 25th this summer and the team will be the minor league affiliate to not just the Flames, but also the newly relocated Calgary Wranglers of the American Hockey League.
The Rush had not qualified for the Kelly Cup Playoffs since they were fresh off merging into the ECHL from the Central Hockey League in 2015. However, they had a second place finish in the Mountain Division last year where they made it to the second round of the playoffs before bowing out to the Utah Grizzlies in six games.
It was a rematch of that series that kicked off the season for Rapid City, as they visited the Grizzlies for a pair of games on Friday and Saturday. The teams split the matches in regulation time which leaves them both with two points so far on the early campaign.
GAME BY GAME:
OCT 21st- Rapid City Rush 5 @ Utah Grizzlies 3 -WIN
OCT 22nd- Rapid City Rush 2 @ Utah Grizzlies 3 -LOSS
The Rush will be home to a few of the Flames organizations key prospects, specifically forwards Rory Kerins, Lucas Feuk, and Ilya Nicolayev as well as netminder Daniil Chechelev. And as of October 17th, defensemen Rhett Rhinehart and Simon Lavigne were both sent down to Rapid City from the Wranglers.
Kerins was a sixth round selection of the Flames in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft and should be a big piece of the RCR moving forward. He has one assist and a pair of goals over the first two games of the season. He’s one point behind the team lead held by Calgarian Matt Marcinew who has four points.
Here’s where Kerins lit the lamp to tie the Saturday game against the Grizz:
GOOOOOAAAAALLLL!!!— Rapid City Rush (@RapidCityRush) October 23, 2022
Defenseman Kenton Helgesen has the early team lead in penalty minutes at 12 PIM through two games, thanks in part to a pair of short-but-spirited tilts over two games:
Tyson Helgesen dropping the gloves and taking on Johnny Walker pic.twitter.com/0TnMAjv4ME— Rapid City Rush (@RapidCityRush) October 22, 2022
In the blue paint, Chechelev has seen both starts for the Rush so far. He’s one of three netminders on the roster but can be expected to see most of the workload. Chechy went 12-12-5 last year with the Mavericks, but his numbers suffered on a struggling team and might see improvement on an RCR team that was near the top of the Mountain Division last year. He posted a GAA of 3.64 and a SV% of .894 along with a single shutout last season, and early-on has better numbers than that over the opening weekend.
The Rush will return home to South Dakota and the friendly confines of The Monument for their home opener series this weekend. They’ll host Calgary’s old affiliate from Kansas City for two games before they get into a six game home-and-home series split with the Idaho Steelheads. They’ll visit the Steelheads for three before heading back home to play host for three more. Idaho currently sits atop the Mountain Division as the only squad with two wins so far, and it’ll be a good shot for the Rush to play leapfrog.
Check back with Matchsticks& Gasoline to track RCR’s push for a second straight year in the Kelly Cup Playoffs!