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Corridor Cross Checks: Cedar Rapids RoughRiders playing Thursday night in the great outdoors
Club’s USHL game against the Youngstown Phantoms will be at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, home of the National Football League’s Cleveland Browns
CEDAR RAPIDS — Everyone was home for the holidays on Christmas break when an important message got sent to members of the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders over the team’s group chat board.
They were going to get their own version of the Winter Classic.
The Riders and Youngstown Phantoms will play a United States Hockey League regular-season game Thursday night at FirstEnergy Stadium, home of the NFL’s Cleveland Browns. Opening faceoff is 5:05 p.m. (CT).
“We were all super pumped when we found out,” said RoughRiders forward Issac Johnson.
FirstEnergy Stadium hosted a college hockey game last week between Ohio State and Michigan. An American Hockey League game between the Cleveland Monsters and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins is next week.
The National Hockey League has conducted outdoor games for years. Now the RoughRiders get their chance to partake in a special event.
“It’s going to be a great experience,” said RoughRiders Coach Mark Carlson. “Looking forward to it. Something that the organization has never done before. We’re really thankful for Youngstown for inviting us.”
The RoughRiders were planning to leave Tuesday for Ohio. They were expected to be able to practice at FirstEnergy Stadium sometime Wednesday.
Cedar Rapids and Youngstown also will play games Friday and Saturday nights at Youngstown. That’d be inside.
“It’s like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said RoughRiders forward Zaccharya Wisdom. “Seeing the rink, people have already played on it and stuff, so we’ve had a little sneak peak at it. The boys are pumped.”
“It will be an awesome experience to get on the outdoor ice in a game,” Johnson said. “A lot of times you’re playing outdoors, but it’s not a real rink. You see it on TV with the Winter Classic. So this will be really cool to be out there.”
The RoughRiders split a pair of games this past weekend, losing at Chicago, 4-3, and beating Waterloo at home by the same score. Wisdom picked up his 25th goal this season in the Chicago loss, while Ryan Walsh had two goals against Chicago.
The RoughRiders are 19-16-4-2 for 44 standings points, tied with Dubuque for fifth in the eight-team Eastern Conference.
Quite a series.
The Iowa Heartlanders won two of three games over the weekend at Xtream Arena from the Wheeling Nailers, losing only the finale Sunday in overtime, 5-4. They won Friday night’s game 5-1 and Saturday night’s 4-3.
Where to begin? How about with Steven Leonard, who had two goals and a fight in Friday’s game and a fight in Saturday’s.
Leonard is a 28-year-old who also has spent time this season with the Jacksonville Ice Flyers of the ECHL and Danbury Hat Tricks of the Federal Professional Hockey League. His fight Friday against Wheeling’s Cameron Hausinger came three seconds into the game.
Saturday night’s game lasted three hours because of 86 total penalty minutes on the team. Zach White had two goals and an assist for Iowa, which is 12-25-10-1 for 35 standings points, seventh and last in the ECHL’s Central Division.
The Heartlanders continue their seven-game homestand with a Wednesday night game against the Indy Fuel and games Friday and Saturday nights against the Kalamazoo Wings.
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