C.R. RoughRiders continue fighting down the stretch, but shut out by Youngstown, 3-0

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CEDAR RAPIDS — They are not going away meekly, and that’s much to the credit of the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders.

They lost again Friday night at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena, shut out by Youngstown, 3-0. But this was anyone’s hockey game most of the way.

The easiest thing in the world would be for these kids to phone it in at this point. They dropped to 11-38-4 with their third loss in a row.

Yet they continue to play hard. There are six games remaining in their USHL season, including another one at home Saturday night against the Phantoms.

“I can say that everyone in here has worked so hard this season, probably more than they ever have,” said RoughRiders goaltender Zack LaRocuqe. “This season has been tough. It happens. But that’s the thing these guys haven’t done, is give up. Everyone just keeps working every day.”

RoughRiders Coach Mark Carlson agreed.

“They are playing their asses off,” he said. “It was a hell of a hockey game tonight against a real good team. I’m proud of the effort. Without getting into it in the media, we just have a couple of guys that do things where they’re not putting the team first.”

Coale Norris scored 1:02 into the second period for the only goal Youngstown would need. Defenseman Michael Karow made it a 2-0 game 2:21 in the third, and the Phanthoms added an empty netter in the waning seconds.

Belarussian goalie Ivan Kulbakov is second in the USHL in wins (27) and made 26 stops for his fourth shutout.

“I thought we played an awful lot of good hockey,” Carlson said. “A lot of guys played their best game of the year. A good game. Just a couple of foolish things cost us.”

This was the ninth time this season Cedar Rapids has been shut out, though the first since January 21. LaRocque was solid in a losing effort, making 20 saves.

Youngstown came into Friday with a one-point lead on Green Bay for the fourth and final available Eastern Conference playoff spot.

“I thought we created some good chances tonight,” Carlson said. “We’ll look to shoot a little more tomorrow night, for sure.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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