CEDAR RAPIDS — Sometimes not saying anything at all says it all.
You could have expected head coach Mark Carlson to light up his hockey club postgame after a lackluster 5-2 loss Friday night to Muskegon at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena. They probably expected it.
Instead there was zero conversation. After a fairly lengthy wait, players had their coach come into the locker room and tell them he’d see them tomorrow.
That was it.
“A little bit,” said center Graham Slaggert, when asked if he felt no talk from his coach actually spoke volumes. “I think it forces us to go home and look in the mirror. Remind ourselves that we all need to elevate our game.”
Jachym Kondelik scored a pair of second-period goals to send Muskegon on its way and the Riders to a third straight defeat. Cedar Rapids came in seven points behind the Lumberjacks in the USHL’s Eastern Conference and just three out of a playoff spot.
The top six teams in each division qualify for the postseason. The RoughRiders have 20 regular-season games left, including another one at home Saturday night against Dubuque.
“The urgency level has to be high,” Slaggert said. “There is no more time to wait around and see what happens. Kind of control our own destiny at this point. We’ve got to get back on the grind. It’s tough hockey, you’ve got to show up every night. The league is different this year. There are not any nights where you go ‘Oh, for sure, this team is going to win.’ Anyone can win at any given time. We need to go in with the mindset that we have to win these games.”
Cedar Rapids just didn’t appear to have any juice throughout most of this game, outchanced significantly and outshot, 35-23. Jason Polin gave hope with a goal four minutes into the third period, cutting Muskegon’s lead to 2-1, but the RoughRiders took a penalty in the Lumberjacks’ offensive zone a couple of minutes later, which effectively ended any momentum.
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Jagger Joshua scored with 10:05 to go, then added another six minutes later to put Muskegon on top, 4-1. An empty netter for Bobby Kaiser capped a four-point night (he assisted on three goals), with Nathan Smith scoring a consolation goal with 13 seconds remaining for C.R.
“We didn’t play well. Pretty simple,” said Carlson, still sitting on 599 career wins.
The coach said he noticed a lack of jump from his team as much as everyone else did.
“I don’t even know what the word is,” he said. “We seemed to have energy before the game. Once the game started, we didn’t.”
Jiri Patera took the loss in net for the RoughRiders, Keegan Karki got the win for Muskegon. Defenseman Calvin Dybicz played his first game this season for Cedar Rapids, an affiliate roster player who replaced injured Matt Denman in the lineup.
Dybicz played five games last season for the RoughRiders and had been with the Minnesota Magicians of the lower-level North American Hockey League. He is a Michigan State commit.
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