CEDAR RAPIDS — The thought in hockey is that if your goaltender makes all the saves he should make and adds a couple more, a team will win.
Enter Blake Pietila of the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders. He was just this side of great in a 2-1 win Saturday night over rival Waterloo in a highly spirited affair before 3,754 fans at the Ice Arena.
Maybe you can call it the Pietila Theory.
“I do believe that, yeah,” the Michigan native said. “Coach has preached it all year. We win a lot of games if me and (teammate Troy) Kobryn make the saves we need to make and one or two big ones. That’s a good recipe for success.”
Pietila stopped 22 pucks here, including a couple against high-scoring Waterloo winger Emil Ohrvall that were highlight reel.
In the second period, he literally dove across the goal mouth to somehow deflect a shot off an odd-man rush. In the third period, Ohrvall (who has 22 goals in 40 games) seemed to have him dead to rights again, but Pietila made a spectacular glove save on a wrister inside the circle with the net apparently gaping.
He didn’t get the shutout here, but admitted this was one of his more satisfying performances in his two seasons here. Waterloo is one of the top teams in the USHL, with a record of 28-12-4 now.
Cedar Rapids is 22-16-4, its 48 standings points good for a third-place tie with Youngstown in the Eastern Conference. The RoughRiders have a game in hand, which will come Sunday at Green Bay.
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“It’s always great to win,” Pietila said. “You’ve got to have a team effort to beat Waterloo because they’re a good team ... We focused on what we needed to do: play hard, play heavy and block shots. It was a great team win.”
“Blake was huge,” said RoughRiders center Nathan Smith. “He was the reason we won. (Teammate Jason) Polin had a nice go-ahead goal, and Blake closed it out for us with a bunch of nice saves.”
Smith put the Riders on top with a goal midway through the first period. Polin had a sick goal midway through the second, going one-on-four, stickhandling his way through those four and placing a perfect wrist shot past Waterloo goalie Evan Fear to the stick side.
It was his team-leading 19th goal of the season. Cedar Rapids killed off all five short-handed opportunities it had, with Waterloo not having very many good looks in any of them.
“Our penalty kill was huge,” RoughRiders Coach Mark Carlson said.
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