RAPID CITY, S.D. – The Rapid City Rush, ECHL affiliate of the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes, announced that Associate Coach Mark DeSantis has been named the new Head Coach of the team. Joe Ferras has stepped down as the bench boss in Rapid City and will now be full-time General Manager of both hockey operations and the day-to-day operations of the Rush organization.
“Originally, the succession plan was to have Mark take over the reins as Head Coach at the conclusion of the 2015-16 ECHL season,” said Rush General Manager, Joe Ferras. “With the struggles over the last six weeks, I felt I was not getting my message through to our players, and it was time for a new voice and a new direction in the locker room. I strongly feel we have a great hockey club here, and in the hands of Mark, I know he will be able to get the best out of them moving forward. With 20-odd games left in the season, we are still very much in the hunt, and I have full confidence in Mark as a tremendous head coach. He has a work ethic second-to-none, a great hockey mind, and a tremendous passion for the game.”
DeSantis made his Rush head-coaching debut on Wednesday against the Idaho Steelheads, claiming his first victory by a 2-0 count. He takes over for Ferras, who has been the only head coach in Rush history dating back to the inaugural campaign in the 2008-09 Central Hockey League season, where he was selected to help start the then-expansion team.
“I would like to thank the ownership group, our tremendous fans and loyal following here in Rapid City,” Ferras continued. “It has been a great privilege to have coached the Rapid City Rush since its inception, and have the opportunity to coach great hockey players and great people, while also having the opportunity to represent a first class organization. We have had the privilege to watch some outstanding hockey over the last eight years. I look very much forward to the next chapter of my hockey career in working with our tremendous staff as the General Manager of the Rapid City Rush.”
DeSantis, a native of Brampton, Ontario, spent all five of his seasons in the assistant/associate coach role with the Rush organization following his retirement at the conclusion of the 2008-09 season. As a head coach, DeSantis boasts an impressive all-time record of 68-44-10 in 122 games between the SPHL’s Fayetteville FireAntz and the CHL’s Brampton Beast, the former of which with he won the 2013 SPHL Coach of the Year award in his first season as a head coach. As a player, DeSantis was the first player ever signed to the Rush organization, and was also the first captain in Rush history. He enjoyed a career of 1,001 games as defenseman across 16 seasons in 6 different leagues, recording 604 points (143g-461a), and was once named the best at his position by taking home the WPHL’s honor of Most Outstanding Defenseman in the 2000-01 season.
“I would like to thank Joe for all of the years that I worked under him, and his tremendous mentoring has meant the world to me as a head coach. I am looking forward to continuing our Rush tradition of great teams,” said DeSantis. “We’re looking at this season as a 24-game season. I am confident with the players in the room that we can turn this around and make a push for a playoff spot. I expect these players to respond with a great work ethic, and continue to build for our playoff push.”
Prior to coming to the Black Hills, Ferras was an assistant coach with the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the affiliate of the NHL’s New York Islanders, and began his coaching career before his promotion to “AAA” hockey as the long-time head coach of the Amarillo Rattlers/Gorillas. As the head coach of the Rush, Ferras has manned the bench for 512 games over the course of seven-plus seasons, compiling an all-time record of 272-192-48 and registering a near-.600 win percentage.
Ferras has been on hand in Rapid City for many monumental moments not only on a personal level as a coach, but also with Rush organization. In the 2009-10 season, Ferras guided the Rush to a franchise-record 43-win regular season, and captured the team’s first-ever championship, winning the 2010 Ray Miron President’s Cup by defeating the Allen Americans in 6 games, making the Rush just the fourth team in CHL history to win a title within his franchise’s first two years of existence. For his efforts in one of his best seasons as a bench boss, Ferras was named the CHL Coach of the Year after securing his first championship as a coach. Additionally, in the 2013-14 CHL season, the team’s last prior to joining the ECHL, Ferras coached his 700th CHL game, becoming just the fourth coach to accomplish the feat. Ferras has successfully led the Rush to the playoffs in six consecutive seasons, doing so by accumulating 35 wins or more in those campaigns. Overall as a head coach, Ferras has an all-time record of 415-298-67 in 828 career games coached.
Outside of his personal success on the ice, Coach Ferras has led the Rush organization, its staff, and its players to personal heights and achievements. Under his leadership, the Rush organization has been nominated numerous times for the Franchise of the Year award, winning it in the 2009-10 CHL season. Furthermore, over 10 players and staff members have been nominated for over a dozen awards, with 9 such individuals claiming their league recognition.
Before turning the page to the coaching chapter of his career, Ferras, a native of Brantford, Ontario, saw success as a professional hockey player for 13 seasons in the AHL, ECHL, WPHL, and the top leagues in Europe in Italy, Finland, and England. As a player, Ferras holds the ECHL single-game record for most assists with 7 in one 60-minute contest, a feat that has only been matched once in the “Premiere ‘AA’ Hockey League”. He was also named as an ECHL Second Team All-Star in the 1989-90 season, when he racked up 45 goals, 63 assists, and 108 points in 49 games with the Winston-Salem Thunderbirds. Prior to his professional playing days, Ferras was a standout hockey player in the NCAA with his alma mater, SUNY Plattsburgh, and smashed the collegiate record books with nearly-unbeatable marks, graduating as the all-time record holder for points (359) and assists (234), while also posting the single-season record for assists (69). On top of those figures, he also finished with the fifth-best all-time point total in a single season (99 as a senior), and finished with the seventh-best point-per-game average in NCAA history at 2.51.