CEDAR RAPIDS — As of late, the net had been quite inviting to opponents of the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders junior hockey team.
After allowing five goals just once in the first seven games of the season, Cedar Rapids surrendered at least five scores in five of its next seven contests.
Cedar Rapids goaltender Jiri Patera reversed the current trend and held Waterloo to two scores as the RoughRiders defeated the Black Hawks, 3-2 in a shootout, in a United States Hockey League game before 2,666 fans Saturday night at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena.
“I was trying to focus, stop every puck that they shot at me,” Patera said. “I tried to help my team win. It happened, so I am really happy about it.”
Patera held Waterloo scoreless for the entire third period, the five-minute overtime and nine rounds of the shootout. Cedar Rapids forward Jordan Timmons was the lone player to score during the shootout when he poked the puck between the ankles of Waterloo goaltender Matej Tomek.
“It’s unbelievable,” Timmons said. “After such an up-and-down hockey game, losing guys … To go down like that, facing adversity, coming together with your teammates, after you put that in the net and know you’ve won the game, it’s unbelievable.”
Cedar Rapids (7-8) had lost five of seven entering the contest and four straight to Waterloo (10-6-1) dating back to last season.
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“Is there anything better in sports than what we just watched?” Cedar Rapids Coach Mark Carlson said. “That’s big-time stuff, right there. Nine shooters in the shootout, heck of a hockey game between two rivals. For our fans here tonight, what a sporting event they saw.”
The RoughRiders got on the scoreboard first when Notre Dame signee Graham Slaggert scored off an assist from forwards Harry Roy and Roman Ahcan with 4:22 left in the first period. The goal is the fifth this season for Slaggert — who played two years with United States National Team Development Program and was the first pick in the USHL draft — which ties him for the team lead with Marek Valech.
With less than a minute left in the first period, Waterloo forward Bobby Trivigno evened the game at a goal apiece when he corralled the puck from forward Jack Drury and punched it past Patera.
Just over three minutes later, Trivigno gave the Black Hawks a 2-1 lead with a short-handed strike in front of the Cedar Rapids goal off a Kyle Koopman assist.
That was the last goal Patera would allow.
“We talked about it before the game,” Patera said. “When they shoot it, I just try to be the closest way to the puck.”
The second period was highlighted by a bevy of physical play. Cedar Rapids forward Marc McLaughlin was helped from the ice after being driven against the boards midway through the period. Less than 30 seconds later, Valach and Peter Tabor of Waterloo were both assessed a five-minute major for fighting, plus a 10-minute misconduct penalty.
“We battled a lot of adversity,” Carlson said. “We were down to nine forwards most of the game. That was a big key for us.”
Once the action was settled, Cedar Rapids forward Sam Malinski scored his first goal of the season via a 45-foot laser to the right of the net, which tied the game at 2-2 with 2:48 left in the second period.
Through three periods, Waterloo outshot Cedar Rapids, 44-24.
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“Jiri for sure made a lot of key stops,” Carlson said. “I thought that was great. I was just proud of how we hung in there, battled and found a way in the end.”
Cedar Rapids visits Dubuque (6-5-2) on Friday.
“I think it is a really big win,” Patera said. “We had a meeting before the game yesterday and talked about things that we need to improve. We did all of those things today and I think we deserved this win.”
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