Don’t even think of using the “O” word around Joe Ferras and the Rapid City Rush.

Don’t even think of using the “O” word around Joe Ferras and the Rapid City Rush.

True, the Rush are sporting a 2-0 lead over the Missouri Mavericks in the Central Hockey League’s Northern Conference semifinals after a pair of hard-fought road wins Saturday and Sunday in Independence.

And, yes, the Rush have the luxury of three home games starting tonight, at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center Ice Arena to clinch the best-of-seven series.

So, might it be a natural inclination to think the series is essentially over?

“Absolutely not,” Ferras said. “All we did was guarantee there’s going to be six games.”

“We’ve got part of the job done. We’re up 2-0. That’s all that means. We’ve still got a long way to go before this series is finished.”

Still, a pair of wins over the Mavericks, fresh from topping the fourth-seeded Mississippi RiverKings in an opening round matchup, was as good as it could get for the Rush.

“Obviously we did what we wanted to do on the road, get two wins against a team that’s playing great hockey,” Ferras said.

“Now, we’ve got ourselves in a nice situation where we’ve got four of the next five in our barn,” he said.

The Rush rode timely scoring, great goaltending from netminder Danny Battochio and a complete shutdown of Missouri’s power play to the weekend road victories.

Battochio turned aside 72 of 74 shots he faced, giving up an extra-man goal when Mavericks coach Scott Hillman made the unusual move of pulling goalie Charlie Effinger for an extra attacker with more than five minutes left in Saturday night’s 5-1 Rapid City win.

Jon Pelle scored twice, with Scott Wray, Brendan Cook and Derek LeBlanc tallying for the Rush.

Battochio and the Rush held for a 2-1 win in Sunday’s physical slugfest, in spite of being outshot 39-25 and facing seven Missouri power plays. Bill Vandermeer’s even-strength goal in the second period proved to be the only tally for the Mavericks.

Les Reaney scored his first goal and fifth point of the postseason in the first period. Scott Wray answered Vandermeer’s score with a power play goal in the third period for the game winner.     

 “To get two on the road and then head back to our building is huge. We did what we set out to do. Now it’s one game at a time, and we need to just keep bringing the effort,” Battochio said.

Maverick coach Scott Hillman knows the Mavericks are in a hole, needing to win two of three to force a game six, if necessary on Monday, April 5 at the Independence Events Center. He said “hard hats and lunch pails” will be the key to a Maverick resurgence.

“We’ll just keep working and try to look for some breaks. It’s going to take some breaks to beat a great hockey team in their own building,” Hillman said.

Rapid City captain Luke Fritshaw said the Mavericks still have plenty of kick.

“There’s no quit in that team. We’re going to see tremendous effort. This series is a long way from being over,” Fritshaw said.