Minor League Sports

7 heaven: Red-hot Cedar Rapids RoughRiders go into USHL weekend with a win streak

Cedar Rapids RoughRiders
Cedar Rapids RoughRiders

CEDAR RAPIDS — Stay positive, stay grounded, don’t get too high, don’t get too low. Grind it out.

You can set your watch by the reaction you get from Cedar Rapids RoughRiders Coach Mark Carlson about certain things.

A seven-game win streak for his hockey club? Carlson doesn’t think much about it.

Or at all.

“We are certainly not making a big deal of it,” he said. “We are taking it day by day. I think our guys are working. I think we’ve got a good character group that enjoys playing with each other. They are continuing to understand teamwork. Our goalies are doing a nice job. I think we’ve got just about everybody that dresses for us making some sort of a contribution, whether it’s offensively, defensively or goals.”

That last part is for certain. In a 5-4 win Wednesday night at Green Bay, the RoughRiders had only 15 skaters, including nine forwards because of injuries and league suspensions

With their leading scorer (Jason Polin) out of the lineup, as well as their second, third, fifth and sixth-leading point getters, the Riders got goals from Joe Hankinson (his fourth), Andrei Bakanova (his fourth), Jerry Harding (his sixth) and Max Sasson (his eighth).

Defenseman Jack Millar scored his first United States Hockey League goal and added two assists. His three-point night almost doubled his season total (now seven).

“When you look at that box score, and we reviewed it with our guys, we had guys who have played well all year that stepped up and produced a little bit more,” Carlson said. “Guys that were able to score some goals and get some assists.”

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Cedar Rapids played Friday night at Central Illinois and will host Des Moines on Saturday night. It was confirmed Thursday that Central Illinois, located in Bloomington, Ill., will go dormant as a franchise next season.

The Flying Aces were averaging just 1,035 fans per game, second to last in the USHL. Central Illinois players and affiliate players will be subject to a league dispersal draft.

The RoughRiders’ recent strong play has improved their record to 26-16-2-2, their 56 standings points good for third place in the Eastern Conference, just three points behind second-place Chicago. Cedar Rapids has 14 regular-season games remaining and appears headed to the USHL playoffs.

“We’ve got to see what kind of lineup will have this weekend,” Carlson said. “But whoever we have in there is going to keep battling. Just like we have been.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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