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CEDAR RAPIDS— During a lost season, the little things make all the difference.
The Cedar Rapids RoughRiders aren’t going to the playoffs, are light-years away from a winning record and personnel-wise, will probably look quite different next year. But on Saturday night, the team was able to top Youngstown 4-3 in a dramatic overtime.
It broke a three-game losing streak, but more importantly to the mob of players that surrounded TJ Walsh after his power play game-winning goal 1:43 into overtime, it was a taste of the sweetness that’s often eluded the RoughRiders this season.
“We stuck to the gameplan and got bodies to the net,” Walsh said. “We were able to get some deflection goals and get the win. It feels amazing.”
Youngstown rushed out to a 2-0 lead in the first, with goals from Austin Pooley and Alex Esposito. It wasn’t the prettiest of periods for the RoughRiders, who took eight shots in the first frame but weren’t able to connect on anything.
The second frame was a bit better Cedar Rapids. The Phantoms tacked on another goal at the 16:01 mark, though this time the RoughRiders were able to respond, finally scoring on a power play.
Dalton Messina sent the puck through the net, with assists coming from Zac Robbins and Scott Perunovich. After failing to score earlier in the period when Cedar Rapids had a two-man advantage on a power play for 55 seconds, it had to have been at least a little bit of a relief.
The RoughRiders were certainly putting on the pressure — it had a 30-21 shots advantage during the game — but finishing proved to be something of a difficult task.
“They had a little bit of puck luck early and we got down,” Cedar Rapids head coach Mark Carlson said. “We kept battling.”
If improvement is the theme, however, then the third period may have served as a catalyst for just that. The RoughRiders were noticeably more aggressive in the third stanza and scored 7:34 into the period.
Scott Perunovich slammed home a nice shot off assists from Trevor Zins and Ben Foley, giving the RoughRiders some needed momentum.
Just moments later, Tomas Vochoz was able to tie the game at 3-all, which eventually sent the contest into overtime, setting the stage for Walsh’s winner.
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