116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — He sported a large bandage on his forehead, covering the stitches he had received following a collision with the boards.
Eric Pohlkamp looked like he was a hockey player, and he certainly is becoming one.
The first-year Cedar Rapids RoughRiders defenseman had a pair of goals Sunday in his team’s 7-6 loss to the United States National Team Development Program’s U18 club at ImOn Ice. It continued a pattern of improved play for the 19-year-old from Brainerd, Minn., that began in mid-January.
“It was a slow start at the beginning of the season, being new and getting used to everything. The systems and all that,” Pohlkamp said. “After Christmas, it was a lot easier ... I kind of took off from there, I think.”
Pohlkamp, a Bemidji State commit making the jump from high school hockey to the USHL, had two assists in his first 28 games with the RoughRiders. He has six goals and seven assists in his last 26 games, playing with Travis Shoudy on C.R.’s top defense pairing.
“Good person, a character guy,” said Riders Coach Mark Carlson. “He skates well, is strong, loves hockey. Good work ethic.”
Pohlkamp’s plans are to return to Cedar Rapids for one more season before going to college. He wants to be able to jump right in and contribute for Bemidji.
“I’m seeing the ice a lot (better),” he said. “That’s a big thing here, making short, simple passes instead of skating it all the way up the ice, like in high school. Just getting the puck to the forwards, so they can do the work.”
The RoughRiders (25-27-2-1) won two of three games over the weekend, including beating Des Moines in a Saturday game at ImOn Ice that originally was scheduled to be played in Des Moines. An issue with the arena, which actually is in Urbandale, forced the last-minute switch to Cedar Rapids.
It technically went as a road win for C.R. The Riders have 53 standings points, two behind Team USA for sixth place and the final available playoff spot in the USHL’s Eastern Conference. Fourth-place Madison has 56 points.
Cedar Rapids has seven regular-season games remaining.
That noise you hear is the Heartlanders’ ECHL playoff chances exploding. Iowa lost four games on the road last week to fall back into seventh and last place in the Central Division.
The Heartlanders first dropped a 4-3 game in overtime at Kalamazoo, then it was back-to-back defeats at Cincinnati (4-2 and 5-2) and one Sunday at Indy (6-2). Iowa has a 27-30-8-1 record for 63 standings points.
Four teams from the Central qualify for the playoffs, and Toledo already has clinched first place. Fort Wayne is in second place with 79 points, Cincinnati third with 73, Wheeling fourth with 70, Kalamazoo fifth with 69 and Indy sixth with 65.
The Heartlanders have six regular-season games remaining. Forward Kris Bennett last week was named ECHL Rookie of the Month for March, the second month in a row he has won the award.
Bennett had 11 goals and six assists in 10 March games. The 26-year-old leads the ECHL with 34 goals in 44 games this season.
The Heartlanders play their final three homes games of the regular season this week. First up is a Wednesday night matchup against Wheeling at Xtream Arena.
Friday night, the Kalamazoo Wings come to Coralville. Then it’s the Indy Fuel on Saturday night.
The RoughRiders also play twice at home: Friday night against the Youngstown Phantoms and Saturday night against the Muskegon Lumberjacks. It’s 7 p.m. opening faceoffs all around.
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