CEDAR RAPIDS — The Cedar Rapids RoughRiders have won three of their four United States Hockey League playoff games so far for a lot of reasons. One is by having a lot of power in their power play.
The Riders go into Tuesday night’s pivotal Game 3 of an Eastern Conference semifinal series against Chicago at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena having scored eight times with the man advantage.
That includes at least once in each game, twice each in the first two games of this best-of-5 set. With 19 total opportunities, that’s a torrid 42.9-percent success rate.
“I think we’re just making smart plays,” said forward Jordan Tonelli. “Getting a lot of pucks to the net, rebounds, creating havoc. Not trying to make things too complicated.”
Cedar Rapids won Sunday’s Game 2 at Chicago with an overtime power-play goal by Aidan McDonough. It kept the puck in the Steel zone most of the nearly two minutes, with good puck movement and a plethora of shot attempts.
That’s been a regular thing in the postseason. The Riders were pedestrian on the man-up in the regular season, converting on 17.7 percent of their tries, which ranked 12 out of 17 teams in the USHL.
The two power-play groups obviously have a lot of confidence right now.
“I think everything gets magnified in the postseason,” McDonough said. “But the power play is really important, especially being in close games in the playoffs. We’ve just had an emphasis on keeping it simple. Getting pucks to the net, getting traffic to the net, getting on rebounds. We’ve done some video to work on it. So far, it’s just been good.”
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The thing about going 3-for-5 with the man advantage thus far in the Chicago series is their best set-up guy, Nathan Smith, hasn’t been in the lineup. C.R.’s top point getter in the regular season has missed the first two games with illness, his availability for Tuesday and Wednesday in question.
Smith, a Winnipeg Jets draft pick, had three goals and 12 assists on the power play in the regular season.
“It’s just kind of the way our team has been all year,” Tonelli said. “We’ve always seemed to have guys go down – injuries, suspensions, whatever. Kind of that next-man-up mentality.”
“We’ve had to move a couple of things around because we found out on game day (Saturday) that Smitty wasn’t going to be playing,” Carlson said. “The guys have done a good job of being able to adjust. We’ve just executed on the plan. We’ll have to have another play for Tuesday, depending on if Smitty is back or not.”
The RoughRiders took a pair of 16-year-olds Monday in the USHL’s Dispersal Draft. The Central Illinois Flying Aces are going dormant, with their players and affiliate list players available to be taken by other clubs.
Cedar Rapids took Canadian forward Joshua Barnes first. He’s a Penn State commit who played in two games this season for Central Illinois.
The Riders also selected forward Jason Siedem of New Jersey, an original Boston College commit who has re-opened his recruiting.
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