CEDAR RAPIDS — Jake Hildebrand played hurt Friday night.
The Cedar Rapids RoughRiders goaltender bumped his knee into a metal post while playing pregame “sewerball” with his teammates. It’s like baseball “pepper,” only with a soccer ball.
Hildebrand toughed it out and made his seventh straight start, taking a tough 3-2 loss to Dubuque, though he played well enough to give his generally outplayed team a legit chance late. That’s all you can ask for from your netminder.
Especially one that had to have an ice bag on his knee after the game.
“He’s like a lot of guys on our team,” said RoughRiders Coach Mark Carlson. “I think he’s really grown and really matured. He’s got a lot of confidence right now. He’s competing and doing a good job in there.”
As the USHL playoffs approach, clubs are trying to figure out who their “guys” are at every position. It could change, for sure, but Hildebrand appears to be the guy in goal for the Riders (22-19-9, 53 points).
“Coach has been giving us these handouts about our mental game,” Hildebrand said. “I think that’s really helped me step up. Just giving me that little extra edge I needed to push through here at the end of the season and close to playoff time. This is the time our team needs to get hot, and I think we’re going in the right direction.”
Dubuque (30-17-4, 64) scored twice in the first period for a 2-0 lead. Davey Middleton’s second-period goal made it a 2-1 game, but the Riders could never claw their way back even.
Tyler Lundey’s second goal of the game with 3:31 left put it out of reach. Landon Smith scored 6-on-5 with 30.8 seconds to go for the final margin.
“I thought (Dubuque) came out well,” Carlson said. “I thought we got going better as the game went on. It was a good effort for us. We just weren’t able to get that last one.”
Dubuque extended its margin to 11 points ahead of Cedar Rapids for fourth place in Eastern Conference. The RoughRiders are three ahead of Team USA for fifth and 10 up on Muskegon for the final playoff spot in the division.
Cedar Rapids hosts Green Bay Saturday night at 7:15. The Gamblers are the league’s top club, with 82 points on a gaudy 40-8-2 record.
Here is the game sheet and video of a second-period scrap between Dennis Kravchenko of the RoughRiders and Eric Freschi of Dubuque:
Gamesheet Dubuque at Cedar Rapids - Fri, Mar 16, 2012[gallery columns="2"]