CEDAR RAPIDS — The record for number of seasons played with the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders is four.
Important to note because Liam Walsh could tie or break the mark. Don’t let that seem like a negative thing.
The United States Hockey League exists to help develop kids and get them ready for college and professional hockey. Development happens at different paces for everyone.
“I have been fortunate enough to see a lot of players go on to college hockey that have been here and in our league,” said RoughRiders Coach Mark Carlson, whose team beat Youngstown Friday night and hosts the Phantoms again Saturday night at 7:05. “I have seen a lot of hockey players, quite frankly from our organization and others, that end up going to school too early. I have never seen a player play in the United States Hockey League for too long. The league is too good, it’s challenging every year. You learn things every year on and off the ice.”
Walsh was a pre-draft tender of the Riders in 2015 but got into just 13 games the 2015-16 season because of injury. That number was bumped to 48 games last season.
The 18-year-old forward from Pennsylvania is an assistant captain this season and has three goals and two assists in 25 games. He has improved, for sure, but hasn’t made a college commitment and doesn’t seem in a hurry to make one.
Defenseman Chris Snaveley and forward Andrew Oglevie are the two guys to have played four seasons in Cedar Rapids. It worked for both, considering Snaveley went on to Michigan State and then a brief pro career.
Oglevie is a junior at Notre Dame who has seven goals and 16 points in 16 games this season. Walsh could theoretically play two more seasons in the USHL before being aged out.
“Coach always says you don’t want to rush into school, and I completely, 100-percent agree with that,” he said. “I would rather go in and have an impact right away than going and maybe not playing, sitting. I will take as long as I need to.”
Walsh went into Friday having scored goals in two of C.R.’s previous three games. He impresses with his physical play and willingness to stand up for his teammates on the ice.
There is some edge to his game.
“I just think I’ve grown as a person, and I think that has helped my progression on the ice,” he said. “Just to learn to take care of the little things. It’s not all about skill. Take care of the D zone, all the little aspects that go into being a good player. Not just the big things that most people look for. I think that’s the biggest thing for me.”’
“He has always tried to do what we want to do as a team first,” Carlson said. “We have a particular game plan against a particular opponent, this is what we want to be doing, he is going out there and executing those things. As well as his practice habits, things off the ice, whether it’s in the room here or on the road, in the community. He has been a team-first guy.”
The RoughRiders got two power-play goals from Marc McLaughlin and one from Jack Ahcan to extend their standings points streak to eight straight games. Nick Cardelli and Chase Blackmun also scored for C.R. (12-10-4), which has jumped into a third-place tie with Youngstown, Muskegon and Dubuque with 28 points each.
That is one point out of second and seven behind first-place Green Bay.
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