Saturday, 11 August 2018

Rapid City Bisons?

The Rapid City Rush aren't a team that is prolific in the hockey circuit, but they are one of the seven teams that the ECHL absorbed into its membership once the Central Hockey League folded. The Rush have yet to qualify for the Kelly Cup Playoffs in any of their three seasons in the ECHL to date, but there's hope a few players that played directly north of Rapid City, South Dakota can help the Rush earn their first playoff berth. As it stands, the Rapid City Rush could rebrand themselves as the Rapid City Bisons with the signing streak they're on!

First, we'll start with a re-signing. Back on February 27, the Rush went out and made a trade for former Manitoba Bisons forward Shaquille Merasty who was playing with the Wichita Thunder. At the time, the power forward had three goals and two assists in 20 games with the Thunder after putting up 74 points in 82 games during his U SPORTS career.

Flash forward to July 2, and #19 inked a new deal to return to the Rush for the upcoming ECHL season after the Thompson, Manitoba native posted two goals and five assists in eight games with the Rush! Merasty was injured for a portion of his time in Rapid City, but it seems the team liked what they saw from the big guy and offered a new contract to him which makes him Manitoba Bison #1 on the roster!

"One of the most important things about Shaq," Head Coach Daniel Tetrault said in a release, "is his willingness to shoot the puck. In Wichita, he managed 38 shots on goal in 20 games, but with us he racked up 42 in just 8. It shows me that once he got his playing time, he took advantage of it and tried to be a factor every night. I'm very excited to have him back."

Manitoba Bison #2 just finished his university career this past spring, and #26 in Manitoba will suit up for the Rush after signing with the ECHL club on August 7! Quintin Lisoway signed his first professional contract with the Rapid City Rush after posting 19 goals and 13 assists in 53 Canada West games, and that total included 11 goals in his senior year!

Lisoway kicked off his junior career with Brandon Wheat Kings where the Neepawa, Manitoba native spent parts of three seasons with the WHL club before getting a shot with the QMJHL's Acadie-Bathurst Titan for 20 games. After 22 goals and 29 assists in the CHL, Lisoway jumped at the opportunity to return home and suit up with the Bisons where he was a solid contributor in his two seasons in the brown-and-gold.

"What stood out to me most about Quintin is his leadership ability. He had a great junior career and put up great numbers in college, so it was a no-brainer to bring him on," Tetrault said of Lisoway in a release. "Quintin is a defense-first player up front, so we'll task him with shutting down the opposition's forwards, but in his college career, he found a scoring touch, so we'll put him in all situations. I'm very excited to see what he brings to the team in Training Camp."

You'd think the Rush might have a pipeline into the University of Manitoba after signing two players because they went and added a third Bison on August 9 when they inked defenceman Blake Heinrich to a professional contract. The Cambridge, Minnesota native spent time in the USHL, WHL, and Canada West before being drafted by the Washington Capitals with the 144th-overall pick in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.

Heinrich had a solid couple of seasons with the Bisons as he was a physical presence while chipping in five goals and six assists in 39 games while spending 59 minutes in the sin bin. With the Portland Winterhawks in the WHL, he used the longer schedule to accumulate 15 goals and 38 assists in 132 games while logging 171 penalty minutes. And his two seasons and a game with the USHL's Sioux City Muskateers saw Heinrich total ten goals and 27 assists in 85 contests where he was a physical force in amassing 227 penalty minutes. Heinrich won't light up the scoresheet, but he'll deliver timely goals and assists while administering a little old-school justice in his own zone.

"Similar to his former college teammate, Quintin Lisoway, who we announced earlier this week, Blake is a leader and a 200-foot hockey player," Tetrault remarked on his rookie defenseman in another release. "Coming from the WHL, I know Blake takes care of his own zone on the back-end, but exercises great hockey sense on when to join in offensively. Blake brings a great skill-set, a ton of youth, and a wealth of enthusiasm to this team, and I can't wait to see what he’s made of in Training Camp."

It's always a great story to hear that a former Bisons player has gone on to bigger rinks and brighter lights, but when three mini lion bots come tog... wait, that's a different thing. No, when three Manitoba Bisons find themselves on the same ECHL team, that's fantastic news for the players and a pretty big compliment for the program that head coach Mike Sirant is running.

We'll do regular Rapid City Rush updates on the The Hockey Show and on Bisons hockey broadcasts this season to keep everyone up-to-date on Shaq Merasty, Quintin Lisoway, Blake Heinrich, and the rest of the Rush as they battle through the ECHL season towards a playoff spot! Best of luck in South Dakota, gents, and do Manitoba proud!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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