Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Denver Cutthroats 5 at Rapid City Rush 2 (CHL) - January 20, 2014

Monday was MLK Day and I needed to find a sporting event close to Denver to complete the weekend road trip. There wasn't anything in Colorado that I could find, but I did notice a CHL game in Rapid City, South Dakota, coincidentally with the Denver Cutthroats as the visitors. Rapid City is 400 miles away, but the drive is an easy one through some beautiful backcountry and the Black Hills. With the weather still perfect, I had no excuse to skip this opportunity to add another state to the list of those in which I have seen a sporting event.

It took just over six hours to get to Rapid City, with about half that time spent on empty back roads, including Wyoming-270, a 40-mile stretch in which just 6 cars passed me going the other way. I love driving when the scenery is beautiful and the highway stretches into the distance with nary another car in sight, an experience few can enjoy in their urban settings. I arrived around 4 pm and after a quick break at the hotel, headed over to the arena.

Rushmore Plaza Civic Center

The Rushmore Plaza Civic Center is a multipurpose venue located just north of downtown Rapid City. It opened in 1977 and the first event was a concert by Elvis Presley, just seven weeks before he died. There are two arenas within: the Don Barnet Arena which seats 10,000 and is used for concerts and other events; and the ice arena, seating 5,132 for hockey.

Parking is free and includes the lot at the high school across the street. If you are staying overnight, the Howard Johnson hotel is just a block away and a good deal. If you enter from the high school lot, you will find yourself in a large lobby that includes pictures of past concerts that took place here, such as Elton John in 2009.

The box office is slightly hidden, but signs direct you there. The cheapest ticket was $17, a bit costly for this level of hockey, but it is actually the best seat in my opinion, high up in one of the end zones. Well, high is a relative term, as there are only 16 rows in this section, so you are still close to the ice, but without the glass blocking your view. The place was pretty empty when I went as I guess Rapid City folk were out celebrating the holiday, but I didn't move around much as I enjoyed being the only one in my row.

The single concourse is wide enough, with concessions fairly typical. There is a small stand selling pulled pork sandwiches for $5 which is my recommendation (they also have beef brisket for 2 bucks more). All sizes of soda pop can be refilled once for $1, something I have not seen before.

As is common in these smaller rinks, you cannot walk around the entire concourse as one area is blocked off for dressing rooms. However, there is a spot you can stand at the glass and take pictures, next to Section S. That's starter Keaton Hartigan below in warmups.

The Rush were founded in 2008 and have quickly become one of the most stable franchises in the CHL, which currently boasts 10 squads, including a new one in Brampton this season. The team is named for nearby Mount Rushmore, and their secondary logo reflects this.

Their primary logo is simply an "R" appearing to move rapidly, as you can see on this 2010 championship banner.

Overall, I quite enjoyed my short time here, more than I can say for the fans, who endured a rather poor showing from their league-leading Rush netminders.

The Game

Tim Boron is the regular goalie for Rapid City and leads the league with a 2.35 GAA and a 19-5 record. But he was hurt recently and was not dressed for this game, so backup Hartigan got the start, only to be beaten early by Daniel Barczuk. When Robin Soudek (below) added a power play marker at 8:28, the fans grew restless, not used to losing to Denver, a franchise in only its second year of existence. As an aside, I find their nickname not particularly suited to hockey (yeah, I know a cutthroat is a type of fish, but I can't help flashing back to Clint Malarchuk).

Another power play ten minutes later resulted in an easy score for Garrett Bembridge as he slid one past a befuddled Hartigan, who was  replaced by John Griggs (on the left below). Griggs was recently signed after Boron's injury and comes to the team from Pensacola of the SPHL, where I saw him play back in October. Always interesting to see a player in two locations in two different leagues, although it doesn't happen in the same season that often.

With the damage done, the rest of the game saw Rapid City pepper Trout keeper Kent Patterson (below, making another save) with 33 shots, while Denver coasted, testing Griggs just nine times.
Unfortunately for him, the first shot he faced in the second period rebounded straight to Barczuk who sent it home to make it 4-0 and pretty much end the battle.

Although Rapid City ended the shutout with a Jared Brown score in the middle period, Bembridge tallied his second of the night and league-leading 30th early in the final frame to make it 5-1. A late reply from Winston Day Chief (below), a native Canadian, made the final only slightly less embarrassing.

Despite outshooting Denver 41-19, Rapid City found themselves losing 5-2, although I suppose etiquette demands that you treat your guests properly. With 11 power plays and the home team out of it early on, this game wasn't one that I'll recall fondly in my later years. Regardless, it was well worth the 850-mile round trip to visit Rapid City and add another venue to my list.


This was venue #466 and my 91st hockey rink.

I have yet to see a sporting event in Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Wyoming. Yet another stupid thing that I'll be tracking going forward.

When the three stars were announced, I was surprised they were all from Rapid City. Turns out that is a local thing and not official, the CHL summary showed the three stars to all be from Denver.

On the way back to Denver, I made a brief stop at Mount Rushmore, about 30 minutes south of Rapid City. Parking is a hefty $11, but there are a couple of roadside turnouts where you can stop and take pictures without being gouged.



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