Short-handed Cedar Rapids RoughRiders try to perservere through injuries

Only 10 forwards available for Friday's game at Dubuque

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Are you a hockey player with the ability to play center, left wing or right wing? It’d be nice if you could provide at least 10 minutes per game of solid offensive and defensive play.

Oh, and you’ve got to be somewhere in the 16 to 20-year-old range. That’s a big one.

If so, contact Mark Carlson. The Cedar Rapids RoughRiders head coach and general manager needs able bodies this weekend.

It’ll be a short-handed group he puts onto the ice. A really short-handed group Friday night at Dubuque.

Cedar Rapids will have just 10 available forwards for that game. The list will increase to 11 for Saturday night’s home game against Sioux Falls.

That’s barring more injuries. This club has been bedeviled by them so far this United States Hockey League season.

“It’s just part of it,” Carlson shrugged. “Every year is different. You deal with it and just work every day with the players that you have. That’s what we’ve done.”

The RoughRiders take a 7-8 record into the weekend, which is pretty remarkable considering everything.

Second-year forwards T.J. Walsh (shoulder) and Jason Polin (jaw) still haven’t played because of surgeries for their respective injuries. Second-year forward Marc McLaughlin missed the first month with a shoulder problem, returned, then suffered a concussion last Saturday night in a shootout win against Waterloo.

He’s out indefinitely. So is second-year forward Dalton Messina, a co-captain with McLaughlin, who suffered a non-contact wrist injury in practice three weeks ago.

Rookie forward Josh Bohlin hasn’t played since late October. Leading scorer Marek Valach was given a game misconduct against Waterloo for an obscene gesture directed at an opponent and has to serve a one-game suspension Friday.

The manpower shortage is so bad, Carlson acquired Nicholas Granowicz this week from Topeka of the lower-level North American Hockey League. He was leading the NAHL in points, so it appears he’ll help.

“I like our group,” Carlson said. “I think they’ve been working their tails off, are coming together. We’ve got a ton of new players, obviously. It’s just reality, but it’d be nice to see (things) once we get guys back and everybody get a couple of weeks under their belt. I think we could have some really good depth. It’s just a matter of time. We’ve got to keep plugging away.”

Goaltender Jiri Patera, an NHL draft pick of the Vegas Golden Knights, was very good against Waterloo, an encouraging sign. His play has been up and down.

There’s no questioning the heart this club has shown to this point. Carlson said he admires that, and thinks his club is gelling.

“There have been a lot of nights where we’ve kind of hung in there and battled through adversity to win games,“ he said. “Whether it was last Saturday night, or whether it was a couple of other games where we’ve been behind, got it tied and found a way to win. The one thing I like is that they really are starting to come together and understand what it means to play as a team. We are making strides in that area.”

Now if only they can make strides on the injury front.

“I hate to keep saying, but when we get everybody rolling, we’re going to be a team with really good speed,” Carlson said. “We’re going to be heavier and stronger than we have been in a long time. I think we’re going to be able to play a real physical game also. You look at the guys we’ve got not playing right now, those are some strong guys that can skate.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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