116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS - When it comes to Cedar Rapids RoughRiders hockey, they are the royal family. The royal families.
The Ahcans and the Zmoleks.
Riese, Will and Bennett Zmolek each played in town as defensemen, the sons of former longtime NHLer Doug Zmolek. Riese has returned to the area this year after his college career concluded, a member of the Iowa Heartlanders in Coralville.
Jack was the first Ahcan brother to be a RoughRider. He was named United States Hockey League Defenseman of the Year in 2016, has played in the NHL for the Boston Bruins and is currently with their top farm club in Providence, R.I.
Roman Ahcan came along a couple of years later. The winger is a senior at the University of Wisconsin.
Now there’s Grant Ahcan, a first-year forward for the Riders. The 19-year-old St. Cloud State commit had six goals and five assists in 21 games going into C.R.’s home tilt Friday night against the Chicago Steel.
“You can throw the six of them together,” said RoughRiders Coach Mark Carlson. “A tremendous job of parenting. Mentally tough, physically tough people. They want to win, but they hate to lose any battle all the time. It’s no secret why they’re all so successful.”
Grant Ahcan figured he’d been to ImOn Ice, formerly the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena, around 10 to 15 times prior to joining the RoughRiders this season. He’d ride down from the suburban Twin Cities with his parents to watch Jack and Roman play.
Those experiences helped him settle in here more easily than most other players.
“I just remember it was awesome, the first game I came to. The building was packed. It was awesome. I’ve loved it ever since,” he said. “I got down and saw the area, which helped. We’d go out to eat after games with my brothers and stuff, so I got to know the good food options and just my way around town. The roads and stuff.”
Originally a RoughRiders draft pick, Ahcan spent a month last season with the USHL’s Chicago Steel, who took him in the league’s dispersal draft after Cedar Rapids announced a year sabbatical from playing due to severe derecho damage of ImOn Ice. He didn’t play a regular-season game for the club, however, was released and ended up in the North American Hockey League with the Bismarck Bobcats.
He finished with nine goals in 45 games.
“There was a lot going on. A lot of teams, a lot of guys coming in and going out,” he said. “It was good. (The Steel) have a pretty good organization. Don’t want to say it’s anywhere near here, but it was good. It was good for the month I was there. I thought I got a lot better in that month span, a bunch of good guys, I had a nice billet situation, too. It was a good spot.”
But, as he said, this spot is better.
Grant said Jack Ahcan always was the better skater of the brothers, which is why he ended up a defenseman. He feels he has a similar game to Roman.
“I think I bring a lot of energy,” he said. “I try to play with a little bit of grit, kind of get into the other team’s head. I think I do come with a little bit of smart hockey IQ, too, which helps out my game a lot. I’m good down low. I think those are the bigger parts of my game.”
His brothers always are there to give him advice on how to survive the rigors of a USHL season. The rigors of playing for a coach who is never easy on his players.
War stories have been shared.
“I’ll usually get a text,” Grant said. “We’ll be talking about practice, and they’ll say ‘Aw, you should have been there when I was there. Carly did this, Carly did that.’ It’s kind of fun sharing stories, hearing their experiences compared to mine.”
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