116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS – It seems like eons ago, especially at this point.
The 2014-15 United States Hockey League season began September 27 for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders with a 6-2 shellacking of the Dubuque Fighting Saints. Ever since, it's been nothing but heartache, heartbreak and a lot of losses to their Eastern Iowa rival.
One more sends the Riders home for the summer. That's after a 5-1 defeat Friday night in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference playoff semifinals at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena.
Game 3 is Saturday night at 7:05 at The Stable. A must win.
'We're not worried,” said RoughRiders defenseman Charlie Curti. 'It's a five-game series for a reason. We're all thinking positively. Crazier things have happened. You see it in the NHL. In the USHL, too, things have happened the past couple of years. We've got a good group, we stick together. We're just going to stay positive and do our best.”
Sometimes a team just simply has your number, and it's hard to think anything else in this case. Dubuque has beaten Cedar Rapids eight of 10 times, eight of nine taking September 27 out of the equation.
'You've got to be able to battle back,” said Riders winger Erik Foley. 'It sucks, but we've got to be able to get the win tomorrow.”
File this one under discouraging. The Riders played a good first period but still found themselves down a goal.
Seamus Malone had the period's lone goal, a power-play marker at the 12:42 mark. Malone, who has seemed to be a RoughRiders killer in his USHL career, pounced on a rebound of a Jacob Benson shot and scored into an open net.
Cedar Rapids outshot Dubuque by a 9-6 margin, had jump and played with physicality … and still trailed.
'We definitely felt we played well that first period, especially compared to the last game (a 6-3 loss),” Curti said. 'We were doing a lot of the little things better. We were just trying to work. We were getting a little discouraged not being able to score, but you've just got to keep at it.”
The RoughRiders had plenty of scoring chances overall, but Dubuque goaltender Jacob Nehema came up huge, making 32 saves. His team put it completely away with a three-goal second period.
Gordie Green had the first one at 6:53, walking right on to a puck deflected off goaltender Ben Blacker. Blacker had his night end two minutes later when Willie Knierim scored on a rebound.
Blacker was replaced by Ryan Larkin, who started Game 1, after allowing three goals on 13 shots. Mitchell Smith made it 4-0 with a blast from the right point with four minutes left in the period.
Andrew Gaus ended the shutout with a short-handed tally 8:07 into the third period. He has two of C.R.'s four goals in this series.
Larkin was pulled in favor of an extra attacker with 2:52 left, which led to Nathan Sucese's empty netter with just over a minute to go. That made it 11 goals for the Fighting Saints these two games from 10 players.
Knierim is the only Dubuquer with two.
'I think we just have to keep playing our game,” Foley said. 'We have to bury our scoring chances a little more. I mean, shots were pretty even tonight. If we can bury some of our scoring chances, I think we've got a good shot tomorrow night.”
FIRST STAR – Seamus Malone (Dubuque): Always seems to hurt the RoughRiders. Had games first goal, set a tone with his physical play.
SECOND STAR – Jacob Nehama (Dubuque): Solid in net with 32 saves.
THIRD STAR – Nathan Sucese (Dubuque): Empty net goal and an assist.
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