Rapid City - South Dakota might not have been the poster on the wall as goaltender Danny Battochio dreamed of a pro hockey career, growing up as a youngster in Walden.
But now that he's here, Battochio is not about to complain. The local puckstopper, who grabbed national headlines in leading the Ottawa 67's on a remarkable Memorial Cup run in the spring of 2005, now prepares for his third season with the Rapid City Rush.
Entering the Central Hockey League as an expansion team in 2008-09, the Rush have quickly gained a foothold in the midwestern city of 70,000 or so. After spending three years at St Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia following his junior days and graduating in 2009, Battochio has settled in nicely, both with the team and the community.
"I had a strong year again and they showed interest in having me back right away, as soon as the season was over" Battochio said, working out last month with goaltending coach Bruce McDougall at the T.M. Davies Community Centre in Lively.
"Since day one of being here, it's been phenomenal," Battochio added. "The whole city, the staff, the fans, the players - it's just a great two years that I've played here so far. It's a fun place to play."
And the 25 year old graduate of the Sudbury Northern Wolves program has played - a lot. Suiting up for 54 regular season games last year with Rapid City, Battochio posted a goals against average of 2.61, alongside a save percentage of .913, all while leading the league with 30 wins between the pipes.
This came on the heels of a league championship in his rookie year, as the Rush downed the Allen Americans, scoring late in double overtime in game six to capture their first Ray Miron President's Cup in May of 2009.
"I get a lot of playing time, which you love as a goaltender," Battochio said. "We got to win a championship and came just a game short last year of going back to the finals. It made the decision (to return) pretty easy."
Still clinging to the hope of catching an eye at the next level, Battochio continues to work hard on his game. "You almost have things down pat, but you've got to stay consistent with them," he said.
"You're not going to win every game, but I think as a goaltender, if you stay consistent and give your team a chance to win every game, that's really all you can do."
Local fans will have no trouble conjuring up images of Battochio, who stopped 48 of 50 shots in leading the 67's to a game one second round playoff win over the Wolves in '05, eventually eliminating the Sudbury juniors in six games.
His trademark athleticism has changed, only slightly, over time. "It's funny - I don't think I'm as quick as I was before, I feel so much older now," said Battochio with a smile.
"I don't think my game has changed that much. As a smaller goaltender, you have to rely on your speed, your agility, your quickness. I try and keep that in my game as much as possible," Battochio added.
Leaving for South Dakota a few weeks back, well before the opening of the Rapid City training camp in late September, Battochio is mindful that another solid campaign might be enough to open the door to another tryout with an AHL (American Hockey League) team.
In the meantime, he remains well-entranched with the Rush. "I feel that my role has changed from my first year," Battochio said. "Now in my third year, I try and be a little more of a leader now, lead by example with my play."
In the end, Danny Battochio is in no rush to leave Rapid City.