CEDAR RAPIDS — No one said breaking a long losing streak was going to be easy.
And, man, oh, man, Friday night’s 6-5 win over Dubuque at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena certainly was not easy for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders.
Jackson Jutting’s back-to-back goals a minute and 13 seconds apart midway through the third period broke a 4-4 tie, as Cedar Rapids won for the first time in eight games. Three more goals were scored after that, two by Dubuque, which goes back to that not-easy thing.
Nevertheless, the Riders come out of the holiday break with a ‘W’ that has got to be a confidence booster. Dubuque came in with an 18-3-1 record.
The teams play again here Saturday night at 7:05.
“We knew that we needed to come back strong after that week-and-a-half break,” Jutting said. “We’ve got all of our guys back now from that World Junior ‘A’ Challenge. We’ve still got some guys injured. It was just nice to get a win.”
Jutting’s goals were beauties, a pair of absolute snipes.
The Colorado College commit’s shot high in the slot area went top right corner past Dubuque goaltender Aidan McCarthy with 7:51 left for a 5-4 lead. He skated through the neutral zone on his second one, maneuvered to the top of the right circle and lasered a shot top left corner.
They were the first goals for Jutting since Nov. 22 at Green Bay, which, coincidentally, was the last time his team won.
“Just tried to get the puck on the net,” Jutting said. “Coach has been saying to have a shot-first mentality. So put it on the net, and, luckily, it went in. That second one, I just kind of saw their D drift toward the middle, so I deked and did the same thing. Put the puck on the net so something could happen. And it did.”
Grant Silianoff had the game’s first goal midway through the first period. He and Riders teammates Ben Meehan and Jack Millar, the team’s top defense pairing, returned from winning a gold medal for a United States team that won the World Junior ‘A’ Challenge in Canada, as Jutting mentioned, prior to the break.
Newcomer Ryan Taylor and Meehan had goals in the second period for a 3-1 Riders edge. Taylor was acquired during the break along with goalie Aidan Harper in a trade with Sioux City that sent forward Robby Newton west.
“I was excited, been waiting awhile (for a trade), so I was excited to get a call,” Taylor said. “I’ll bring some physicality, hard work, and, hopefully, more scoring like tonight.”
Dubuque scored twice late in the second period to tie the game. Ty Jackson’s goal with 3:28 left brought the Fighting Saints within 5-4, but Nate Hanley gave Cedar Rapids a two-goal cushion again just 42 seconds later.
Dubuque scored with McCarthy out for an extra attacker with 59.3 seconds to go, but the RoughRiders held the fort.
“I thought we played a lot of good hockey throughout the course of the game,” RoughRiders Coach Mark Carlson said. “We’ve got to clean up a couple of things for tomorrow, but I liked an awful lot about our game tonight.”
“Not necessarily relax now, but this is definitely a confidence booster getting a win against a really good team,” Jutting said. “We’ve got them again tomorrow night, so, hopefully, we can come out with the same energy.”
Harper was needed, by the way, because goalie Shamil Shmakov could be out long term with a back injury. Shmakov is the 6-foot-8 Russian and Colorado Avalanche draft pick.
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Derek Mullahy has made seven straight starts for Cedar Rapids. Harper was 2-3 with a 3.02 goals against average and .884 saves percentage for Sioux City.
Taylor had three goals in 14 games for the Musketeers. Newton had six goals and six assists in 22 games for the Riders, including a hat trick in the season opener in late September.
Carlson said forward Joe Molenaar is out for the season with a shoulder injury. Molenaar was aqcuired in a trade with Tri-City in November and had one assist in six games with the RoughRiders.
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