CEDAR RAPIDS — Maybe someday the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders actually will have their entire roster available. Maybe.
It hasn’t come, yet, and might not for awhile. That’s what makes the five-game points streak they have going really encouraging.
Or not. Coach Mark Carlson wasn’t having any consolation-prize talk after his team’s 4-3 overtime loss Wednesday night to Chicago at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena.
“Right now, we’re not into moral victories,” Carlson said. “We’re not into talking about how many guys we have injured. We have enough healthy guys right now, we feel, to go out and win hockey games on a consistent basis.”
Baker Shore’s goal with 1:04 left in the 3-on-3 extra session pulled it out for Chicago. A pair of RoughRiders got caught too high in their own offensive zone on the play, creating a 2-on-1 down low.
Defenseman Graham Lillibridge fired a cross-crease pass to Shore for a slam dunk, forgive the cross-sports reference. The Steel tied the game with 5:36 left in regulation on the second of two Jack Dugan goals.
Dugan was stopped by C.R. goaltender Jiri Patera on a penalty shot 13 seconds earlier, after defenseman Jake Johnson was called for closing his hand on a loose puck in the crease. Dugan picked off a pass near the Riders blue line, skated in and fired a wrist shot home.
“It’s not really about the overtime tonight,” Carlson said. “We could have done things better during the 60 minutes, I thought. We’ll keep working at it here, and get ready for tomorrow.”
The RoughRiders (10-10-3, 23 standings points) play Thursday night at Dubuque, then return home for a Saturday night encounter against Central Illinois. The United States Hockey League’s Eastern Conference is a jumbled mess with just eight points separating first-place Youngstown and seventh-place Team USA.
Cedar Rapids is in the middle of that pack after winning three of its last five games. The losses came in a shootout and OT.
That success has come despite key forwards missing time, including Dalton Messina, Jordan Timmons and T.J. Walsh on Wednesday. Injuries have been a common theme since the preseason.
Liam Walsh scored a short-handed goal for C.R. in the first period, with Chicago countering for a pair in the second. Winger Marek Valach sniped home a couple of beauties in the third to put his club on top, 3-2.
The second came with 9:35 to go. Valach has a team-high 10 goals this season.
“We needed to play more as a team tonight,” Carlson said. “I think that’s the biggest improvement area for us. We’ve got to play way more as a team.”
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