IDAHO – Darian Romanko broke a scoreless deadlock and assisted the game-winner in the third period, but Gordon Defiel stole the show by stopping all but one of 39 shots to give the Rapid City Rush a 2-1 regulation win over the Idaho Steelheads on Saturday night. The win gives the Rush 3 of 4 points on the weekend, and puts them 3 points behind Idaho for 3rd in the Mountain Division with 26 games remaining in the season.
Both teams skated to a scoreless deadlock after 20 minutes of play, but just over the midway point of the game, Darian Romanko got the Rush on the board. With 9:23 left in the second, Brennan Saulnier fired a shot that missed wide, but rimmed to Jalen Smereck on the near side of the blue line. Smereck threw a wrister into traffic that deflected off of a Steelheads defenseman and towards Idaho goalie Colton Point. Point stopped the puck, but the rebound came to Romanko, who hacked it in to the net to give the Rush a 1-0 lead with the only goal of the frame (Smereck and Saulnier assisted).
The Rush found themselves in another net-front situation just before the midway point of the third to double their lead. Tanner Karty, from behind the net, tried to wrap around on Point with his backhand, but the puck appeared to hit the post, despite thoughts it initially went in the net. Both teams kept playing, and the rebound came to Chris Leibinger, who slammed the puck into an open net to double the Rush lead to 2-0 with 12:46 left in the second (Karty and Darian Romanko assisted). Moments later, Colby McAuley got the Steelheads on the board to put pressure on the Rush for the remainder of the game. With 6:59 left in the game, Colton Saucerman rifled a blue line shot that was deflected and initially stopped by Rush net-minder Gordon Defiel, but the rebound came to an open McAuley, who fired the puck behind Defiel to halve the Rush lead to 2-1 (Saucerman and Kyle Schempp assisted). Defiel and the Rush held on, despite an empty-net effort from the Steelheads, to win the game 2-1 and take 3 of 4 points from the Steelheads in the pair of games.
Gordon Defiel, making his third start with the Rush, and back-to-back in the series, earned the win by stopping all but one of 39 shots on net (2-2-1-0 total, 2-0-1-0 with the Rush). In the pair of games, Defiel stopped 78 of 84 shots through 122:28.
The Rush now head to the “Air Capital” to take on the Wichita Thunder for a pair of road games this opening weekend. Puck drop at INTRUST Bank Arena on Saturday, February 8th, is slated for 6:05 p.m. MDT, while Sunday, February 9th, is slated for 3:05 p.m. MDT.