GENEVA, Ill. — Maybe this was the hockey gods telling the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders everything’s good now.
Aidan McDonough scored a power-play goal just over nine minutes into overtime Sunday night to give the Riders a 4-3 win over the Chicago Steel, knotting the best-of-5 series at a game apiece.
The series shifts to Cedar Rapids for Tuesday night’s Game 3 and Wednesday night’s Game 4.
By about every account, it was a just hooking call on Chicago defenseman Matteo Pietroniro in front of the Steel net that allowed the Riders the not-so-usual OT power-play chance. Overtimes in the playoffs are even more unusual.
But keep in mind the RoughRiders had a go-ahead goal from Jordan Tonelli negated with eight minutes and change left in regulation after a long video review. After originally calling it a goal, officials ruled Tonelli intentionally kicked the puck into the net, though RoughRiders Coach Mark Carlson said he and Tonelli felt the puck had gone in off his stick.
“That’s hockey. Things like that are going to happen,” McDonough said. “You’ve just got to stay even-keeled and keep working.”
On the winning sequence, the RoughRiders had the puck in Chicago’s zone most of the penalty time. Finally in the dying seconds of the man advantage, Jason Polin took a pass at the right point, skated in some and passed down low at the side of the net to Liam Walsh.
Walsh threw it toward the net, with a rebound kicking into the slot, where McDonough was able to get his stick between multiple defenders in front and poke the puck past Steel goalie Justin Robbins.
“I just whacked at it, and it happened to go in,” McDonough said. “It was a greasy goal, but that’s what it’s going to be this time of year.”
The teams traded goals in regulation, a couple of times immediately. Will Zmolek scored in the first period, with Chicago tying it 15 seconds later. Liam Walsh put Cedar Rapids back ahead in the first, with Chicago tying it at 2 late in the period.
Uula Ruikka gave Chicago a 3-2 lead just 4:13 into the second period, but McDonough re-tied it a mere 11 seconds later. Chicago won Saturday night’s Game 1, 6-3.
“We certainly had things to improve on from last night,” Riders Coach Mark Carlson said. “I didn’t think we were bad, by any means. I thought tonight that we did play better. Was proud of the way we continued to battle from behind. It’s great to go through the experience and win a playoff game in overtime.”
Goalie Blake Pietila had 16 saves for the win for C.R., his best coming in the final minute of regulation as he stoned Robert Mastrosimone, Chicago’s best player.
The RoughRiders played again with center Nathan Smith, their top regular-season point getter, who was out with what is believed to be an illness. Carlson would not be specific on Smith’s condition or status for the rest of the series.
“I think we saw how we played last night, and we weren’t happy with it,” McDonough said. “So we had a real emphasis on playing better defensive hockey and managing the puck better. I think we did that a lot better tonight. Results usually follow when you play better.”