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Corridor Cross Checks: Cedar Rapids RoughRiders seek to improve playoff position
Club has chance to host first-round playoff series as USHL regular season comes down the stretch
CEDAR RAPIDS — There’s the day-by-day smaller picture, of course. That’s the way it always works for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders.
For every hockey club.
But with the United States Hockey League regular season winding down, you’ve got to take a peek at the bigger picture here. The RoughRiders go into a two-game road series this weekend at Muskegon with a pretty firm grasp on a playoff spot.
They are in a three-way tie for fourth place in the USHL’s Eastern Conference with 58 standings points, on a 25-18-4-4 record. Green Bay and Dubuque also have 58 points, with Muskegon in seventh with 47 points and on the outside looking in at the playoffs.
The top two teams in the division (Chicago is in first, Team USA and Youngstown tied for second) get first-round playoff byes. The third and fourth-place teams host a best-of-3 first-round series against the fifth and sixth-place teams, respectively.
“Obviously we’re not thinking too much about what place we’re in,” said RoughRiders forward Dylan Hryckowian. “We’re just thinking about winning as many games as possible ... If we get home ice, that’s something that everyone would be excited about.”
“It’d be a pretty incredible experience to have a playoff series at home,” said RoughRiders forward Andy Moore. “But right now, we’re just taking it day by day and just focusing on becoming the best team. If we do that, those home games will come.”
Cedar Rapids is 6-2-0-2 over its last 10 games, including a 1-1-1 weekend that saw it win at Madison, 7-3, lose at home to Madison, 5-4, and lose in a shootout at Des Moines, 2-1.
Lots of guys have had really good seasons. Ryan Walsh is second in the USHL in points (65 in 50 games), Eric Pohlkamp leads USHL defensemen in points (46) and goaltender Bruno Bruveries leads the league in minutes played, is second in wins (20) and fifth in goals against average.
This team would seem to be potentially dangerous in the postseason. The RoughRiders have 11 regular-season games remaining.
“I think we’re in a really good spot,” Moore said. “Really excited about the things we’ve been doing. Still have a lot of work to do, growing a lot. But we like where things are headed.”
“I think we’ve been doing a lot of good things these past few weeks. Especially this stretch of eight to 10 games,” Hryckowian said. “We’ve been shutting it down, keep some low scores up there on the board for the opposition. But there’s still a lot of work to do. Eleven games to go, and a lot of improvement to make to try and make a playoff push.”
RoughRiders alum Aidan McDonough signed an NHL contract last week with the Vancouver Canucks. McDonough played the 2018-19 season in Cedar Rapids, then spent four years at Northeastern University.
He was Vancouver’s seventh-round draft pick in 2019. McDonough is with the Canucks but has yet to play a game.
Hunter Jones made 31 saves this past Sunday to give the Iowa Heartlanders a 2-0 win at Kalamazoo. It was Jones’ first ECHL shutout and the second in Heartlanders history.
Jake Durflinger and Tommy Parrottino had goals for Iowa.
The Heartlanders dropped a pair of games earlier in the week at Cincinnati, 3-1 and 4-2. They have a 16-32-12-1 record for 45 standings points, last in the seven-team Central Division.
With the college hockey season winding up, professional teams have begun signing players. The Heartlanders agreed to ECHL contracts with forward Justin Michaelian out of the University of Maine, forward Jesse Jacques from Minnesota-Duluth and goaltender Mitch Benson from Boston College.
Forward Tyler Busch has earned his first call-up to the American Hockey League, signing a PTO (Player Tryout Contract) with the Iowa Wild.
The Heartlanders have three home games this week at Xtream Arena, hosting the Wichita Thunder on Wednesday night, Friday night and Saturday night.
Opening faceoff each night is 7:05.
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