116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Here’s where it stands for the Corridor’s two hockey clubs as mid-April approaches.
In short, this is the final week of their inaugural season for the Iowa Heartlanders. The club finishes up with three ECHL road games in Texas against the Allen Americans.
For the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders, it’s also a three-game week. A really, really big three-game week that could determine if they will be part of the USHL postseason.
Let’s go more in depth.
Cedar Rapids RoughRiders
Cedar Rapids picked up a pair of huge wins last weekend at home, taking care of the Youngstown Phantoms, 5-3, Friday night and then the Muskegon Lumberjacks the following night, 6-5.
David Chen and Josh Karnish had a goal and assist apiece in the Youngstown victory. Adam Flammang’s 25th goal of the season with just over six minutes left was the difference against Muskegon.
Defenseman Brendan Fitzgerald is a USHL Defenseman of the Week candidate. He had a goal against Youngstown and a goal, three assists and a plus-four plus-minus rating against Muskegon.
It can’t be overstated how incredible the home-road splits are for the Riders, as they are 21-6-1-1 at ImOn Ice and 6-21-1-0 on the road. Actually, those aren’t totally accurate numbers since they beat Des Moines a couple of weeks ago in what is statistically recorded a road game, though it was moved to Cedar Rapids due to rink issues with the Buccaneers.
Cedar Rapids plays Tuesday night at Dubuque, hosts Madison on Friday night and travels to Wisconsin’s capital city the following night. The RoughRiders (27-27-2-1) go into the week tied with Team USA for sixth place and the final available playoff spot in the USHL’s Eastern Conference with 57 standings points each, though C.R. has the nod in ROW (25-24).
That stands for “Regulation and Overtime Wins” and is the tiebreaker. Fifth-place Madison has 58 standings points, fourth-place Youngstown 63 and third-place Muskegon 66.
Chicago (81) and Dubuque (77) have clinched playoff spots but are jockeying for first and second. Both will receive first-round byes.
Cedar Rapids concludes the regular season next week with a roady to Dubuque and a home game against the Fighting Saints.
The goal, no pun intended, has gone from making the playoffs to getting out of last place.
Iowa (28-32-8-1) played its best hockey in late February/early March, climbing out of the cellar in the ECHL’s Central Division and within legit shouting distance of fourth place, which gets you into the postseason. But it has won just two of its last 12 games to officially be eliminated.
The Heartlanders have 65 standings points to sixth-place Indy’s 67. Toledo has clinched first place in the Central and Fort Wayne second.
Wheeling, Cincinnati and Kalamazoo are within three points of each other for the final two playoff spots in the division.
Iowa finished up its home schedule with a 6-4 loss Wednesday night to Wheeling, a 4-2 win Friday night over Kalamazoo and a 6-2 loss Saturday night to Indy. The Heartlanders have given up six goals each in three of their last four games, a defensive pattern that led to the late-season fade.
“Same mistakes we’ve talking about most of the year here,” Heartlanders Coach Gerry Fleming said after Wednesday night’s loss to Wheeling. “Wrong side of the puck a lot of times. At the end of the day, it came back to battles. We lost too many of them.”
Kris Bennett seeks the ECHL’s goal-scoring title this week. He leads the league with 35, two ahead of second-place Trevor Gooch of Reading, doing so in just 47 games, as he spent some time this season with the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League.
Former NHLer Ryan Kuffner missed a number of games with injury and illness, but played his best hockey the last couple of months. He has 17 goals and 60 points in 38 games and has a plus-minus rating of plus-eight, second on the team to Zach White’s plus-10.
Playing for a team that’s been outscored by 34 goals this season, those plus-minus ratings are really good.
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