Andrew Sturtz scored at the end of the second period in his first game off of IR in a month, but the Utah Grizzlies did all their damage in the first period with five goals to claim a 5-1 win over the Rapid City Rush on Friday night. The loss, the Rush’s fourth straight overall and third in a row against the Grizzlies, creates .018% separation between them and the Grizzlies, occupants of the final playoff spot, with 13 games remaining in the season.
Utah blistered to a 5-0 start out of the gates and never looked back. Garrett Johnston started the scoring entries at 4:05 of the opening frame, firing a shot from the blue line through traffic that beat Rush net-minder Adam Carlson, giving the Grizzlies an early 1-0 lead (Trey Bradley and Matt Hoover assisted). Exactly 30 seconds later, a turnover behind the net came to Teigan Zahn, who rifled a shot between Carlson’s blocker and the post, quickly doubling the Utah lead to 2-0 at 4:35 of the first (Hayden Hodgson had the lone assist). In the middle of four-on-four hockey, a Rush defender came into the zone off the blue line, but a quick flick of the puck by Cedric Pare set Hodgson off on a two-on-one break. Hodgson elected to shoot, slinging a laser off the post and in to extend the Grizzlies lead to 3-0 at 9:08 of the first (Pare had the lone assist). Moments later, A.J. White caught the Rush puck watching and found Trey Bradley wide open in front of Carlson’s crease. Bradley pocketed a quick wrister, ballooning the Grizzlies lead to a commanding 4-0 advantage with 4:14 left in the first (White and Hoover assisted). The goal prompted the removal of Carlson, substituted by Dave Tendeck in net for the remainder of the game. Tendeck only allowed one goal in relief, and it came from Ryan Lowney in the final seconds. With 14 seconds remaining, Lowney joined an odd-man rush from the back-end, and fired a shot right down the slot area that beat Tendeck, ending the Grizzlies first period onslaught at 5-0 (White and Charlie Gerard assisted). Parker Gahagen in net for Utah only saw 6 shots and stopped them all in the first 20 minutes.
The only Rush goal came in the final two mintes of the second period, and Andrew Sturtz, in his first game since suffering an injury on April 3rd, ended the bid for back-to-back shutouts for Gahagen. With 1:24 left in the second, Hunter Garlet threw a blue line shot to Gahagen, which he stopped but produced a rebound when the puck bounced out of his glove. Sturtz batted the puck in mid-air past the Utah goalie and got the Rush on the board, trailing 5-1 (Garlent and Darren Brady assisted). Both teams were held off the board in the final 20 minutes, leading Utah to their overwhelming victory.
Adam Carlson suffered the loss, stopping 8 of 12 shots in 15:56 of his start (13-11-2-1). Dave Tendeck came in relief of Carlson, and allowed only one goal on 17 shots in 44:04 of relief.
The Rush continue their seven-game road trip, with one game remaining in this week’s set against Utah. Puck drop for the final head-to-head game between the rivals this season on Saturday, May 8th, is slated for 7:10 p.m. MDT.