CEDAR RAPIDS — Jiri Patera’s sports bloopers moment Saturday night lasted only that. One moment.
The rest of the game, the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders goaltender was solid. At least solid enough to help his club get a big win.
The RoughRiders got a go-ahead goal in the second period from Roman Ahcan and beat Green Bay, 4-1, at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena. Patera had 29 saves, the only shot to get past him one he actually made himself.
Patera tried to play what seemed to be a harmless puck that rolled toward him midway through the first period. Initially he went to his forehand, saw a Green Bay player coming at him, changed direction to his backhand, but had the puck roll off his stick ... and into his own net.
Gamblers forward Mac Welsher was the closest guy to the play and was awarded the gift goal.
“At first, I was like ‘What the hell did I do?’” Patera said. “But after that, I just tried to focus on the next shot and keep us in the game. The guys played a really good game. I’m glad that we won.”
The RoughRiders (21-23-9) took three of four available points in this weekend set to inch within one point of Chicago for sixth place in the final available playoff spot in the United States Hockey League’s Eastern Conference. They were able to respond after incurring a brutal, 4-3 overtime loss Friday night in which they blew a two-goal lead in the final 10 minutes of regulation.
“We played better last night. It’s not even close. Not even in the same conversation,” said RoughRiders Coach Mark Carlson. “I liked our second and third periods tonight. I thought we battled.”
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Just like Patera. A draft pick last summer of the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights, the 19-year-old Czech came into Saturday’s game with a 9-12-6 record and mediocre 3.45 goals against average and .897 save percentage.
His first season in North America has been an adjustment.
“Yeah, a lot of ups and downs,” he said. “I’m just trying to focus on the last seven games here and hoping we make the playoffs. If we play like this, we will.”
Matthew Thomson tied this game for Cedar Rapids with a goal in the final minute of the first period. Ahcan gave the Riders the lead for good by taking a stretch pass at the Green Bay blue line from teammate Graham Slaggert, deking, deking and eventually squeezing one past Green Bay goalie Maksim Zhukov, also a Vegas draft pick last summer.
Kevin Lombardi scored into an empty net with 26.9 seconds remaining, with Jordan Timmons capping the weekend with a 5-on-5 goal just 14 seconds later. The RoughRiders play this coming Friday night at Dubuque and host Chicago the following night.
The RoughRiders went without defenseman Ilya Sushko, as he sat out after incurring a game misconduct in Friday night’s game against Green Bay. Sushko was assessed a five-minute major penalty for boarding on the third-period play, which eventually led to a game-tying power-play goal for the Gamblers.
Affiliate roster defenseman Jack Millar joined the team for Saturday night’s game. He is a 17-year-old Colorado College commit.
It is unknown if Sushko will have to serve more suspension time.
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