116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS – They’re a winning hockey club.
A home sweep of Green Bay allowed the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders to go above the .500 mark for the first time this United States Hockey League season.
Goaltender Connor Hasley made 24 saves and got his first USHL shutout in Friday night’s 2-0 win. The RoughRiders scored five of the final six goals Saturday night in a 5-3 win.
“I just think we stuck with it,” Coach Mark Carlson said. “We were down 2-0 last weekend, too, in Des Moines and were able to win that. We just stuck with it. It’s really that simple.”
Cedar Rapids has a 7-6 record, winning six of its last eight games. This was always going to be a process considering last season’s derecho-induced sabbatical and the fact that Nate Hanley is the only player on this team who has played before for the RoughRiders.
A trade for forward Cole Burtch from Youngstown has been a boon for C.R. He has scored eight goals in nine games with the Riders, including in both games against Green Bay.
“You know what, it’s going to be the same as it’s always been: day by day, game by game, week by week,” Carlson said. “We’re not concerned with what our record is, what is this stat, what’s everything. We just want to keep getting better. We’ve been getting better every day, we’ve been getting better every weekend.
“The bottom line is we have one player who has played here before, and that’s probably never happened in the history of the United States Hockey League. These guys have banded together, and they’re working, and they’re improving. We just want them to keep doing that.”
Boy, did they need that one. The Iowa Heartlanders beat the Indy Fuel on Friday night, 5-3, at Xtream Arena, for their first win since the season opener Oct. 22.
It has been a struggle for the first-year ECHL club and then some. They were 2-6-1 going into their Sunday afternoon home game against the Kalamazoo Wings and had given up the most goals and shots on goal in the league, by far.
“We’re not going to get anything resolved by being frustrated,” said Coach Gerry Fleming. “We’ve lost some players to injuries, to call-ups, and you’re putting players in positions where you’re hoping they’re getting an opportunity, and they’re taking the ball and running with it. That hasn’t been the case thus far.”
The Heartlanders had players moved up to the Iowa Wild of the AHL because of a COVID outbreak on the parent Minnesota Wild. It was a chain-effect deal.
Those guys have been returned to Coralville, which should help. Forward Kris Bennett and defenseman Riese Zmolek are two of those guys and have been selected the team’s captain and an assistant captain, respectively.
Forward Ryan Kuffner also has been returned from Des Moines to Coralville. He’s the only guy on the roster with previous NHL experience.
Forward Alex Khovanov also was sent down to the Heartlanders. He’s considered a legit Minnesota Wild prospect who Fleming says needs to get into better shape.
The hope is all these additions or re-additions will create better and more consistent play.
“When you’re giving up that many shots, it’s not just one area. It’s a combination of a lot of things,” Fleming said. “We want to play connected hockey, like most games, in all three zones. You want to be able to connect those dots every way. Right now, it’s just disconnected … We’ve got to be able to find a way to connect the dots. It’s a lot of video, a lot of teaching, a lot of patience. These guys, they’re trying to get better. It’s not like they’re going out there and not giving everything they have. You can’t fault the effort, the effort is definitely there.”
No opportunities for you to catch some hockey this coming weekend, unless you want to travel.
The RoughRiders play just one game, and that is Friday night at Chicago. The following week is the annual home-and-home series with the rival Waterloo Black Hawks: Thanksgiving night in Waterloo and the following Saturday (Nov. 27) at ImOn Ice.
The Heartlanders have another of those brutal three-in-three road weekends. It’s Friday and Saturday night tillies in Toledo against the Walleye, then a Sunday matchup against the Fort Wayne Komets in Indiana.
Iowa’s next home game is Wednesday, Nov. 24 against the Kansas City Mavericks.
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