CEDAR RAPIDS — It’s as cut and dried as it can get now.
In order for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders to make the United States Hockey League playoffs, they’ve got to win their regular-season finale Saturday night and have the Chicago Steel lose theirs in regulation.
A 6-3 win Friday night over Des Moines at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena in their penultimate game only kept the Riders alive in the postseason race. Chicago rallied from a goal down in the third period to win its game Friday night over Central Illinois to keep a one standings-point lead for sixth place and the final available playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Cedar Rapids hosts Madison on Saturday night, and Chicago is at Central Illinois. Never say never.
“It would have been big if (Central Illinois) would have gotten them tonight. They were close,” said RoughRiders winger Jordan Timmons. “But things don’t always go your way. We did our job, and we’ve got to do our job tomorrow. That’s all we’ve got to focus on. We can’t focus on anything else. We can’t let (the situation) get into our heads. Focus on our task, and everything will work itself out.”
This was C.R.’s fourth win in a row, so you can’t say it has gone quietly into the night. The RoughRiders (25-24-10, 60 points) scored the first three goals here against a Des Moines team having to use an emergency goaltender because of injuries.
The first of those three went to Grant Silianoff late in the first period. The 17-year-old joined the club this week after his season concluded at Minnesota prep school power Shattuck St. Mary’s.
Nothing like being thrown into a do-or-die, pressure situation for the first pick in last year’s USHL Draft, Phase I. But the kid did just fine, getting more and more shifts as the game progressed.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
“I’ve been wanting to play the whole year, (but) my school didn’t allow me to come down during the season,” Silianoff said. “I was just champing at the bit. With injuries and everything, it turned out I got my chance (this weekend). I was really surprised and happy. Obviously the speed is much faster here, but I thought I adjusted well to it.”
Defenseman Matt Denman scored two minutes after Silianoff for a 2-0 RoughRiders lead. Kevin Lombardi made it 3-0 midway through the second, and Nathan Smith scored 4:38 into the third for a 4-1 edge.
Des Moines made things hairy with back-to-back goals midway into the third, but Marek Valach’s 20th goal of the season gave C.R. breathing room with 4:16 left. He is playing with a broken finger.
Timmons notched his team-leading 23rd goal with 2:17 left for the final margin. Jiri Patera got the win in net.
“We’re just sticking to the same thing we have all year,” said RoughRiders Coach Mark Carlson. “I’m going to be proud of our team either way. We’ve played good hockey here for a long time. It’s one game at a time, and we’ve got a hockey game to go and win tomorrow night.”
The RoughRiders announced they and the three local Culver’s restaurants in town raised $3,000 for the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team in Saskatchewan that lost 16 members in a horrific team bus accident last weekend. Riders players worked at the Culver’s restaurants for four hours Wednesday night, with 10 percent of all food sales during that period going to the Humboldt team’s GoFundMe page.
Every member and coach of the RoughRiders and Des Moines, along with the game officials, stood in a unifying circle during a pregame ceremony announcing the fundraising. RoughRiders captain Marc McLaughlin gave a self-written speech honoring Humboldt (video above).
l Comments: (319) 398-8259; email@example.com