BLOOMINGTON – Pier Pelletier and the Bloomington Blaze looked a lot sharper a night after their shaky season debut.
Pelletier stopped 33 of 35 shots and Travis Granbois and Nicklas Lindberg each scored twice as the Blaze earned a 5-2 Central Hockey League win over Rapid City before a Saturday night crowd of 2,014 at U.S. Cellular Coliseum.
The Blaze scored three times on 17 shots in the second period to seize control of the contest en route to splitting the two-game set with the Rush. Ryan Palmer notched Bloomington’s other goal and Nicolas Rioux recorded three assists.
Pelletier didn’t allow a goal until Jarrett Konkle’s tally just over a minute into the third period. Damian Surma also scored for Rapid City. The Rush were 0-for-6 on the power play, while Bloomington scored twice with a man advantage.
Pelletier turned away 12 shots and several other scoring opportunities in the opening 20 minutes, getting a little help when a Surma shot caught the crossbar with 89 seconds remaining.
“Pier had great bounce-back effort tonight after a rough first period last night,” said Blaze coach Brian Gratz. “He gave us a chance right there in the opening frame and I think our team fed off of it after we got the opening goal.”
Granbois got the second period attack started, finishing an odd-man rush by poking home a close feed from Kyle Bochek. Rush goalie Neil Conway then stopped David Gilbert’s shot from the slot on a 2-on-1 break with Sebastien Trudeau, diving to the ice to deny rebound chances. But the Blaze, who finished with 43 shots, kept the pressure turned up.
With Kyle Peto sent off for hooking, Jared Walker dislodged the puck from a scrum along the boards and got it to an open Palmer, who drilled a shot past Conway from above the crease.
Lindberg finished off the Blaze’s second-period offensive, cleaning up a loose puck in front of Conway after Jon Booras hassled the Rush into a turnover deep in their own zone.
“We were definitely on the go. We were moving our feet and really getting after them,” said Gratz. “I think they had a hard time handling our forecheck and offense is bred off of tenacious forecheck.
“We got some production out of Lindy and Rioux, which is what we need. What I was most impressed with was the Bochek-Granbois-(Charlie) Townsend line, they really shut down their top line.”
Konkle, who was stopped by a sprawling Pelletier late in the second, dashed Blaze shutout hopes with a laser from the high slot.
Granbois then took a pass from Rioux as he came out of the box for a breakaway, put a move on Conway and notched his second goal of the game for a 5-1 lead. Surma quickly trimmed the advantage back to three goals with a wrist shot from the right circle, but Rapid City got no closer.
Bloomington got its first power play goal of the season after Trudeau drew an elbowing call against Jordan Behler at the blue line. Lindberg took a pass from Rioux and ripped a wrister from the left circle to the top shelf behind Conway with 4:40 left in the first.
Tysen Dowzek drew 27 minutes worth of penalties with 41 seconds left in the game after a fight with Justin Sawyer, who had shoved Walker to the ice near the Rush crease away from the action.