CEDAR RAPIDS — Go to the net. Get there as much as possible.
And don’t get hurt. Whatever you do, do not get hurt.
The Cedar Rapids RoughRiders simply cannot afford any more injuries up front as they prepare to play a weekend home set against the Green Bay Gamblers. The Friday and Saturday night games mark the third and fourth meetings between the Eastern Conference rivals in the last two weeks.
All at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena. Weird schedule, eh?
The regular season is coming to a rapid close, with nine remaining games and the RoughRiders approaching must-win territory. They have a 20-23-8 record, their 48 standings points three behind Chicago for sixth place and the final playoff spot in the division.
An uplifting road trip last weekend to Michigan saw them pick up three of four standings points with a win and overtime loss to Muskegon. What was not uplifting was the loss of another forward.
Nick Granowicz joins leading scorer Marek Valach and captain Marc McLaughlin on the shelf, and those three will not return, meaning Cedar Rapids has just 11 available forwards the rest of the way.
“There are always opportunities coming, so everyone has to fill their role that is presented to them at the time,” said RoughRiders winger Roman Ahcan. “We should be fine this weekend. We’ve been battling this all year, so it’s nothing new.”
“You’ve got to stay positive,” RoughRiders Coach Mark Carlson said.
Carlson said he felt guys stepped up last weekend with available extra opportunities. Jordan Timmons was an obvious one, as he had a hat trick in last Saturday’s 4-2 win.
“I thought Nathan Smith did a good job taking a lot of draws for us,” Carlson said. “Timmons had a really nice weekend with four goals, worked really hard around the net.”
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Which goes back to that first thing here. Pretty doesn’t cut it in the United States Hockey League, the coach said.
If you want to score goals, you’ve got to do one thing in particular.
“Jordan’s one of our guys who is still learning that if you want to score goals in the league, you’ve got to get around the paint,” Carlson said. “We have some guys who embrace that, who do a good job of doing it, and a few people who need to understand that if you want to score goals in the United States Hockey League, you’ve got to get somewhere in the vicinity of the paint. “You’ve got to be willing to get beat up a little bit. Bottom line.”
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