CEDAR RAPIDS — This is what it is like right now for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders.
A loose puck squirted out of the Bloomington Thunder zone and down the ice in the closing seconds Saturday night. Bloomington’s Jake Durflinger beat C.R.’s Jason Polin to it, Polin dove from behind to knock it away and did, though Durflinger went down as well.
The referee ruled it a penalty shot. Because the RoughRiders net was empty, that’s an automatic goal.
Yep, there’s your capper to a 4-2 loss at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena. Mitchell Mattson squeezed a puck through goaltender Drew DeRidder and just over the goal line for the game winner with just 2:17 left.
The referee didn’t see it and had to go to video replay to confirm it. Not every United States Hockey League arena has replay capabilities, but the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena does.
Once again, this is what it is like right now for the Riders. They’re 0 for the season, 0-11-2.
They’ll try and break the streak on the road next week, with games at Chicago and Muskegon.
“That’s all for the fans, I guess,” Riders Coach Mark Carlson said, when asked if his team is snakebitten. “I think we’re much improved. I’m proud that we played harder. We did a lot of the gritty things that we need to do. We’re slowly making progress. We still have to make more of the tough plays than the easy plays. We have to be more consistent with our sticks, more consistent finishing our checks, we have to be more consistent with our shift times.
“Those things all up during the course of a game. That could be the difference between winning and losing. It was much improved tonight, for sure. But it needs to be better.”
The effort was there Saturday night.
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Bloomington got the game’s first goal late in the first period after a giveaway right in front of DeRidder. But defenseman Scott Perunovich tied it a minute later on the power play, wristing a puck past Bloomington goalie Logan Halladay from inside the circle.
Cedar Rapids went ahead, 2-1, late in the second period on another power-play goal, this one of the 5-on-3 variety. T.J. Walsh pounced on a rebound after a nice passing play from Steven Agriogianis and Austin Martinsen created a one-timer chance that Halladay made a pad save on.
But Bloomington tied it with under a minute left in the period on a goal from Vlad Dzhioshvili. You smelled overtime until Mattson’s goal, which came after good work from pinching defenseman Wyatt Kalynuk.
“I don’t think we’re pressing. I don’t,” Carlson said. “That’s my opinion, but I don’t think we are.”
Goalie Zack LaRocque (illness) and defenseman Jakub Sirota (injury) continue to be out for the Riders. Defenseman Riese Zmolek played for the second straight night after missing the opening 11 games with an injury that required offseason surgery.
The tinkering of the roster continued this week with the addition of forward Matt Kidney from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights of the lower-level North American Hockey League. The 19-year-old from Middletown, N.J., had nine goals and 21 points in 19 games this season for WBS.
Kidney takes the roster spot of Johnny DeRoche, who had one assist in 10 games this season. DeRoche had five goals and 14 points in 39 games last season for the Riders.
Also out is defenseman Trevor Zins, who has been shipped to Topeka of the NAHL with DeRoche. Zins was pointless in nine games this season, after playing all of last season with Cedar Rapids.
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