Minor League Sports

Cedar Rapids RoughRiders find a midseason gem in defenseman Matt Denman

Has 14 assists in 15 games since being acquired from NAHL

Cedar Rapids RoughRiders
Cedar Rapids RoughRiders
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Matt Denman was given the news in August that he wouldn’t be playing for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders this season. At least not yet.

The defenseman was going back to the Minnesota Magicians of the lower-level North American Hockey League, though there was one caveat.

“He was in our camps and was always right there, right in the mix,” said RoughRiders Coach/General Manager Mark Carlson. “We just told him that we may be in touch.”

Which they were in early December. Carlson scouted him and was impressed enough to add him to the roster.

The 19-year-old from Prior Lake, Minn., has been quite a find, as he goes into the weekend having picked up 14 assists in 15 games. The RoughRiders (13-13-6) play Friday night at Chicago and Saturday night at Waterloo.

“Carlson just said ‘If you do well, you might have a chance to come back up.’ It all worked out,” Denman said. “I kind of knew a USHL team was going to call me up at some point, but I didn’t know what team. I wanted it to be Cedar Rapids, so it worked out perfectly.”

Denman isn’t the most physical defenseman around, but he’s a puck mover, someone Cedar Rapids has used a ton on the power play. That’s where nine of his assists have come.

Today’s hockey is all about speed and transitioning from defense to offense as quickly as possible, Denman’s game fits that mold.

“He’s got really good vision and hockey sense,” Carlson said. “He’s got to improve his shot, get stronger. But he’s got a chance to be a really, really good player if he wants to be committed to the game.”

Denman hasn’t made a college commitment, yet, though he said he hopes that picture will become clearer in the next month. He said he feels he has fit in nicely at a new level and with a bunch of new teammates.

“They all welcomed me,” he said. “It has been a little bit of a transition, just the game speed and everything. Everyone is on you faster, so you’ve just got to make quicker decisions and quicker passes. But other than that, it’s hockey. You’ve just got to keep playing.”

RIDERS RAMBLINGS

The RoughRiders have hired Scott Meyer as an assistant coach and scout. Make that re-hired, considering Meyer has had previous stints with the club in the 2004-2005, 2005-2006 and 2010-2011 seasons. He replaces Mike Rotolo as goaltending coach, as Rotolo left to return home to the east coast.

— RoughRiders forward Nick Granowicz committed this week to play college hockey at the University of Michigan. Granowicz was acquired from Topeka of the NAHL last month, where he had 41 points in 25 games. The 19-year-old from Macomb, Mich., has three goals in 11 games for C.R.

— Forward Jordan Timmons will be away from the club this weekend while tending to a personal matter. Timmons has nine goals and five assists in 24 games this season. Other than him, the RoughRiders should have a full complement of players for the first time in awhile. They have been beset repeatedly by injuries.

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

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