Rapid City 5, Fort Wayne 2

Ryan Menei receives a standing ovation after scoring his second-career hat trick, first since his rookie year, Friday Night. The Rush won game 5-2 over Fort Wayne and lead the playoff series 1-0. (Photo Seth A. McConnell/IDS)

One might think a player of Ryan Menei’s caliber, a prolific goal scorer from the day he first put on skates, would have a handful hat tricks on his résumé. You might be surprised, but Friday night’s hat trick was Menei’s first since his rookie season in the ECHL. For him, and the Rush, it couldn’t have come at better time.

“I’ve had a lot of two goal games where I could have had a third, but I’m just glad it came tonight,” said Menei. “It’s a huge win in a short series. The first game is always big.”

After being held without a goal in the opening round series against Dayton, Menei wasn’t going to be held in-check for long. Rapid City’s leading goal scorer became the first player in Rush franchise history to score 40 goals (including the playoffs) with his first tally. After netting a power play goal in the second period, Menei scored the Rapid City’s second playoff hat trick 5:05 into the third period.

“When Ryan is shooting the puck, he is as good as it gets,” said Rush head coach Joe Ferras. “It was great to see Ryan get the gorilla off his back. That line competed hard all night long, all the forwards did.”

The Rapid City crowd littered the Rushmore Plaza ice surface with hats as the shell-shocked Komets were forced to skate through the mess.

“It’s an unreal feeling,” said Menei. “We have the best fans in the league and the roof was blowing off the top. I had goose bumps.”

King leads the physical play for the Rush

Colt King forces in the first goal of the night for the Rush in the opening period. It was King's third tally of the playoffs. (Photo Seth A. McConnell/IDS)

If there was any question if the Rush were going to be rusty after an eight-day layoff in-between the first and second rounds of the CHL playoffs, it was quickly put to rest in the first period.

Behind three goals in the first (two via the power play), the Rush avoided the slow start that they suffered in the first game of the Dayton series.

The power play, which was inconsistent during the regular season, has come to life in the playoffs. Rapid City has tallied 7 power play goals in four games, including the two on Friday night. They have also scored a power play goal in seven straight games.

Colt King started the scoring when he forced in a greesy goal 8:23 into the first period. With a man-advantage, Les Reaney fired from the circle and Fort Wayne netminder Nick Boucher could not secure it. King collected the rebound, shot, and then powered in his own rebound.

“This is going to be a tough series, it’s going to be a battle,” said King. “They have a big physical team, and so do we. Les (Reaney) had a lot of patience along the wall and the lane opened up. He shot and the goalie couldn’t find it and I was able to push it in three inches. That’s all it takes.”

For the rejuvenated King, it was his third goal of the playoffs. I asked King after the game if he thought he was playing his best hockey of the season.

“I think so, things are coming around,” he said. “There were a lot of ups and downs this season for us. I’m just glad the puck is going in for me, for us. I’m going to do whatever it takes for us to win. If that means chipping pucks in front of net, then that’s what it is.”


(Photos Seth A. McConnell/IDS)

From there, Rapid City’s no. 1 line took over. Captain Scott Wray, Konrad Reeder and Menei, who accounted for over 75 goals during the regular season, netted two scores to close out the first period.

“Obviously the early goals set the tone,” said Ferras. “On the physical side, we’re not a team that is going to be intimidated by Fort Wayne or anyone in this league. It’s nice to get the first one, but we’ll enjoy it for about 20 minutes because they’ll come twice as hard tomorrow night.”

Menei scored Rapid City’s second goal with 7:59 remaining in the opening period. The Komets turned the puck over in their own zone, and Menei found space, flipping what was supposed to be a pass to Reeder who was streaking in front of net. Boucher expected Reeder to put a touch on the puck, but Reeder let it through, and the puck trickled through the netminder’s legs.

Leading 2-0, Rapid City scored another power play goal on Menei’s second of the night. Wray won the puck on the boards and slide a cross-ice pass to Reeder who made a slick one-touch pass to Menei who crossed over Boucher to go up 3-0 with .32 seconds to play in the first.

Battochio versus Boucher; ‘Batman’ takes round 1

The goaltender battle was cited by pundit, fan, and coaches alike as a huge key to the series. Both have championship experience. Boucher has won three IHL titles with the Komets, and Battochio of course led the Rush to the Ray Miron Cup last season.

Battochio stoned 20-of-22 shots, including crucial saves in a second period barrage by the Komets. Boucher, who has won 15 straight playoff games at home, had a tough night saving only 21-of-25 shots.

“We had a little lull in the second, but Danny kept us in it,” said Ferras. “They’ve (Fort Wayne) won three straight championships, they know how to win. They’re not going to quit.”

After going down 3-0, Fort Wayne’s Colin Chaulk broke through 3:15 into the second period. The goal resulted from an odd-man chance that was created bad line change by Rapid City. They were left with only four players on the ice.

After Menei put the Rush up 4-1 in the third, the Komets rallied behind Chaulk’s second of the game. With an extra attacker, Chaulk deflected it in at 17:06.  However, a second gamble didn’t pay off for Fort Wayne as Dave Grimson sailed home an emptynet goal to seal the 5-2 win for the Rush.

The two teams battle again tonight in game 2 at the Rushmore Plaza Ice Arena at 7:05 p.m..

GAME DETAILS
SCORING SHOTS
1 2 3
Fort Wayne 0 1 1 2
Rapid City 3 0 2 5
1 2 3
Fort Wayne 7 9 6 22
Rapid City 11 7 8 26
POWERPLAYS
Fort Wayne 1 for 5 : Rapid City 2 for 9
SCORING SUMMARY
Period 1
Rapid CityColt King (powerplay) (Les ReaneyJesse Schultz) 8:23
Rapid CityRyan Menei (Derek LeBlancKonrad Reeder) 12:01
Rapid CityRyan Menei (powerplay) (Konrad ReederScott Wray) 19:28
Period 2
Fort WayneColin Chaulk (Artem PodshendyalovTab Lardner) 3:15
Period 3
Rapid CityRyan Menei (Josh Beaulieu) 5:05
Fort WayneColin Chaulk (powerplay) (extra attacker) (P.C. DrouinFrankie DeAngelis) 17:06
Rapid CityDave Grimson (emptynet) (Josh BeaulieuLes Reaney) 18:01
Fort Wayne Rapid City
# NAME G A PTS +/- S PIM
2 Dupuis, Guy 0 0 0 0 1 0
4 Molle, Dustin 0 0 0 -1 0 6
7 Krug, Matt 0 0 0 0 1 6
14 DeAngelis, Frankie 0 1 1 -2 2 0
22 Lapointe, Dan 0 0 0 -2 0 0
23 Lardner, Tab 0 1 1 0 1 4
29 OConnor, Sean 0 0 0 0 4 2
33 Boucher, Nick 0 0 0 0 0 0
35 Reiter, Kevin 0 0 0 0 0 0
39 Patrosso, Derek 0 0 0 -2 2 2
44 Thomas, Leo 0 0 0 0 1 0
55 Podshendyalov, Artem 0 1 1 +1 1 0
71 Drouin, P.C. 0 1 1 0 3 2
72 Cescon, Craig 0 0 0 0 0 2
79 Schrock, Kaleigh 0 0 0 -1 1 0
82 Ratchuk, Michael 0 0 0 -2 0 0
91 Chaulk, Colin 2 0 2 0 3 2
94 Curadeau, Mathieu 0 0 0 -2 2 0
# NAME G A PTS +/- S PIM
2 Hartinger, Vladimir 0 0 0 0 3 0
3 Flamminio, Gio 0 0 0 0 0 0
4 Eade, Chris 0 0 0 +1 2 2
6 Weselowski, Riley 0 0 0 0 0 0
7 Harvey, Kevin 0 0 0 0 0 0
8 Hodge, Brendon 0 0 0 0 0 0
10 Menei, Ryan 3 0 3 +1 6 2
16 Schultz, Jesse 0 1 1 0 0 2
17 Wray, Scott 0 1 1 0 1 0
19 LeBlanc, Derek 0 1 1 0 4 2
20 Beaulieu, Josh 0 2 2 +1 1 0
21 Reeder, Konrad 0 2 2 +2 2 0
23 Reaney, Les 0 2 2 +1 1 4
27 Grimson, Dave 1 0 1 +2 3 0
30 Battochio, Danny 0 0 0 0 0 0
31 Boron, Tim 0 0 0 0 0 0
45 King, Colt 1 0 1 0 2 2
51 Smale, Andrew 0 0 0 +1 1 4
GOALIES
NAME DEC MIN SHOTS SAVES
33 Nick Boucher LOSS 57:49 25 21
35 Kevin Reiter (b)
NAME DEC MIN SHOTS SAVES
30 Danny Battochio WIN 60:00 22 20
31 Tim Boron (b)