GENEVA, Ill. — Jerry Harding’s short-handed goal 4:46 into the second period Saturday night was the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders winger’s second goal of the night and gave his club a 2-1 lead over the Chicago Steel in Game 1 of this best-of-5 United States Hockey League Eastern Conference semifinal playoff series. And you’d think a whole Zamboni full of momentum.
But it ended up representing the high point of the game for the Riders. The rest was not so good.
Nick Abruzzese scored two goals and added three assists, his cool five-point night carrying Chicago to a 6-3 win over the Riders. After Harding’s shorty, Chicago scored five of the final six goals to run away with this first game.
Game 2 is Friday at 5:05 p.m. at Fox Valley Ice Arena.
“It’s a series,” said RoughRiders Coach Mark Carlson. “They won Game 1, did a real nice job, they’ve got a real nice club. We’ll get regrouped and look forward to getting back at it at 5 bells.”
Defenseman Matteo Pietroniro of Chicago got the scoring started with a goal 5:37 in. But Harding countered with a tying goal even strength about six minutes later.
Harding’s shorty put C.R. on top for the only time in this game, 2-1. But three consecutive goals in a matter of four minutes put the Steel up 4-2.
Max Sasson scored a power-play goal in the final minute of the third period to bring the RoughRiders within 4-3 headed to the final 20 minutes. But Chicago extended its lead immediately to 5-3 on a Neil Shea goal just 31 seconds into the third period.
Abbruzese scored his second goal of the night midway through the third to put the game away.
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“I thought they played well,” Carlson said. “I thought we did a lot of good things, too. We just need to be more consistent with our overall effort toward the game plan.”
Carlson was asked about Abbruzese, one of the top point getters in the regular season.
“First of all, he’s a heck of a hockey player. Heck of a hockey player, for sure,” Carlson said. “Definitely one of the top players in the league. We’ve got to pay more attention to the little details. But the thing is we’ll get freshened up and get back after it tomorrow.”
Goaltender Blake Pietila faced 28 shots, saving 22, for Cedar Rapids. Counterpart Justin Robbins stopped 23 of 26 shots for Chicago.