Luke Fritshaw has been to the top of the mountain.

The Rapid City Rush captain has fond memories of hoisting the United Hockey League’s Colonial Cup as part of the Rockford (Ill.) IceHogs’ championship run in 2007.

Luke Fritshaw has been to the top of the mountain.
The Rapid City Rush captain has fond memories of hoisting the United Hockey League’s Colonial Cup as part of the Rockford (Ill.) IceHogs’ championship run in 2007.
“It was the most fun I’ve ever had playing hockey,” Fritshaw said. “We had a great team and made a great run in the playoffs. We were the third-ranked team in the league, and we knocked off the best team.”
Fritshaw hopes to know the view from the summit again after a strong Rapid City run through the Central Hockey League playoffs, beginning 7:05 p.m. Saturday in the first game of the Northern Conference semifinal series against the Missouri Mavericks at the Independence Events Center.
“You make friends for life when you do that with championship teams,” he said. “The reason I’m so excited about this year is when you get that taste of winning, you want to do it again so bad,” he said.
Rush assistant coach Mark DeSantis was on the cusp of a title four times as a player – including once in a roller hockey league – but has yet to taste the champagne. 
He was a defenseman on the 1994-95 Greensboro (N.C.) Monarchs and the 1995-96 Jacksonville (Fla.) Lizard Kings, which both advanced to the East Coast Hockey League’s Kelly Cup Finals.
DeSantis said the Lizard Kings were the 15th of 16 teams in the league but hit a hot streak in the postseason.
“We bumped off the No. 1, 2 and 4 teams and lost to the No. 3 team in four straight,” DeSantis recalled. “I was the leading scorer in the playoffs as a defenseman.” 
DeSantis and Rush forward Rich Hansen were also teammates on the Port Huron (Mich.) Icehawks, which fell in triple overtime to the Fort Wayne (Ind.) Komets in the 2008 International Hockey League Turner Cup finals.
DeSantis and current Rush player-assistant Scott Wray were also part of coach Joe Ferras’ Amarillo Gorillas squad that advanced to the CHL Southern Conference finals in 2004. Forward Derek Campbell skated for the then-Memphis RiverKings that bowed to eventual CHL champion Colorado in a conference championship series in 2007.
Wray and Colt King have been playoff teammates three times, with the Port Huron Flags of the UHL in 2006, last year with the Rocky Mountain (Colo.) Rage of the CHL and again this year.
Veteran Brendon Hodge also has playoff time in the ECHL with Wheeling, W. Va., and Stockton, Calif. This year marks his first trip to the CHL postseason.
“It’s great to be back,” he said.
Defenseman Gio Flamminio has vivid memories of his most recent playoff experience with the now-shuttered Oklahoma City Blazers in 2008.
“We lost in seven games to Colorado. It was tough, but it gives you a taste of what it’s all about,” he said. “I’ve been two years away from it, but that hunger’s still there.”
Goaltender Miguel Beaudry’s lone professional playoff foray came as a backstop for the defunct Austin (Texas) Ice Bats in 2008.
He hopes the Rush can become the fourth team to win the CHL’s Ray Miron President’s Cup championship in just their second year of existence.
“It would be nice to continue that trend,” said Beaudry. “Arizona, Colorado and Laredo all did it their second year.”
 But Fritshaw warns against thinking too far ahead and dismisses talk of team destiny.
“You want to look ahead and say it’s going to happen because it’s destiny, but you know what? There’s three rounds of teams that are going to want to prove that destiny wrong and do their best to do it,” he said.
“You have to look at it like we’ve got a really good team that has a decent shot of doing it. We just need to stay focused and play Rush hockey for the three rounds and hope for the best. As long as we play as hard as we can, we have a good shot.”
As futile as it may be to look ahead, DeSantis warns that looking back won’t do the Rush any favors, either.
“Winning our conference in the regular season was great, but it’s over with,” he said. “Now it’s a brand new season. We have one main goal, and that’s to win 12 games before anyone else does.”