RoughRiders' Kuster shows his muster

CEDAR RAPIDS – Never say Mark Carlson lacks caring.

The Cedar Rapids RoughRiders head coach watched an unnamed idiot park himself behind one of the goals at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena last week and pull out a radar gun as player after player fired slap shots as hard as they possibly could.

At one point, in between shots, Carlson skated up to the idiot.

“You sure you don’t want a helmet? You know, just in case?” he asked.

The idiot relented, with the coach bringing him a pair: one with a plastic shield about the eyes and one without. Naturally, neither one fit.

Things ended with no pucks finding their way through the net, though goaltender Chris Birdsall shanked a shot with his goalie stick over it, almost beaning the idiot on the ricochet. Probably would have been fitting.

For the first time in the five years of the RoughRiders’ “Hardest Shot” competition, someone broke 100 miles per hour. Actually, two guys did.

Defenseman Clark Kuster’s final attempt of three registered a blazing 101 on the gun, provided as always by Perfect Game Baseball Club. It seemed realistic since Kuster went 96 and 95 MPH, respectively, with his first two tries.

“I was guessing Ivan was going to win,” Kuster said of teammate Ivan Provorov, whose hardest shot was a mere 92 miles per hour. “You see games, and he’s always taking them.”

“I would have predicted Clark,” said Andrew Poturalski of the RoughRiders. “He’s always in the weight room doing extra stuff. He’s the first guy up there, always getting on guys to work. You can just tell from his work over the summer that he’s a big guy, he’s gained a lot of (strength).”

Kuster improved his shot, at least in the competition, 11 miles per hour from a year ago. As Poturalski said, it goes back to the extensive offseason work Carlson asked his players to do last summer.

“We really stressed training over the summer,” Kuster said. “I guess that’s probably what it was. Definitely, I feel a lot stronger than a year ago.”

“This guy’s a big guy, and he’s got a really hard shot,” Poturalski said. “You see it all the time in the games. So I believe it.”

As always, each player that wanted to participate got three “official” tries. Seven broke 90 miles per hour, four of them defensemen, as you’d expect since they take the most slap shots in games.

Assistant coach Doug Leaverton proved he’s still got it by registering 91, 91 and 90, in order. Keep in mind, the slap shot is just a small part of a player’s game, sort of like a home-run hitting contest in baseball.

A few guys kept shooting after the competition was over, and that’s where Poturalski registered his 101. Was it legit?

He did hit 92 twice in his official attempts, impressive considering he’s not the biggest player on the roster (a listed 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds).

“He works hard,” Kuster said. “He’s always shooting pucks before practice, after practice. Doing all the things to get that (number).  I believe it.”

Here are all of the official results:

Dylan Steman (75, 82, 82)

Mark Auk (89, 89, 88)

Jason Kalinowski (81, 82, 86)

Alec Marsh (78, no tries after that)

Charlie Curti (87, 90, 92)

Andrew Poturalski (92, 92, 89)

Andrew Oglevie (76, 81, 77)

Dylan McLaughlin (83, 84, 83)

Doug Leaverton (91, 91, 90)

Kevin Shand (81, 79, 82)

Brennan Sanford (78, 80, 79)

Andrew Gaus (83, 84, 85)

Scott Moldenhauer (93, 89, 91)

Carlos Fornaris (81, 83, 79)

Logan Von Ruden (85, 88, 84)

Ivan Provorov (92, 89, 90)

Nathan Widman (86, 87, 86)

Clark Kuster (96, 95, 101)

Corey Petrash (82, 90, 89)