Minor League Sports

Our 20-year Cedar Rapids RoughRiders all-star team

Cedar Rapids RoughRiders head coach Mark Carlson. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Cedar Rapids RoughRiders head coach Mark Carlson. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — For whatever reason, this Midwest city of more thean 100,000 never had an indoor ice rink. Pretty unreal, right?

It took a northern Wisconsin lumber mogul named William “Butch” Johnson for Cedar Rapids to finally get one. He met with Cedar Rapids city leaders and agreed to move his United States Hockey League franchise from Mason City ... if an arena was built.

It was constructed in a hurry for $6.7 million, with players and even head coach/general manager Mark Carlson’s mother, Fran, helping install seats so the Jan. 8, 2000, opener could be played on time. It was, with the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders winning in a shootout.

This is the 20th season of the arena and RoughRiders hockey. The club has an all-time record of 610-423-55-55, including winning three Anderson Cups for most regular-season standings points (2004-05, 2010-11 and 2015-16) and one Clark Cup league title (2004-05).

The USHL is the top junior league in the country, its primary goal to prepare players for college and professional hockey. Players generally are between the ages of 16 to 20 and are not paid, so they can retain NCAA eligibility.

Carlson has been the one franchise constant, here since day one. He has worked for four different ownership groups, winning USHL Coach of the Year honors three times and graduating hundreds of players to the next level.

No one does it better.

“Twenty years ago, July 1999, on my visit to interview here, the area now known as The Stable was a giant pile of dirt,” Carlson said. “In January 2000, Cedar Rapids became home to one of the best arenas in all of hockey. For 20 years, the Cedar Rapids community has joined TOGETHER inside and outside of The Stable to help impact and grow young hockey players from all over the world into successful young men.

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“It has always been our goal that our players would impact our community, as well as our community helping and impacting the RoughRiders. TOGETHER we have done junior hockey well. Thank you!”

According to hockeydb.com, 431 kids have played here, representing 31 states, six Canadian provinces and 13 foreign countries (Canada, Estonia, Sweden, Russia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, France, Finland, Norway, Belarus, Denmark, Hungary and Germany). A fortunate 25 have moved on to the National Hockey League, with six currently on an NHL roster (Justin Abdelkader of the Detroit Red Wings, Tony DeAngelo of the New York Rangers, Adam Gaudette of the Vancouver Canucks, Alec Martinez of the Los Angeles Kings, Ivan Provorov of the Philadelphia Flyers and Alex Stalock of the Minnesota Wild).

With this being the 20-year anniversary of the RoughRiders and a normal hockey lineup consisting of 20 players, we’ve decided to pick a RoughRiders All-Star Team of 20: two goaltenders, six defensemen and 12 forwards. It wasn’t easy, that’s for sure.

Let us know what you think. And give us your list of 20.

GOALIES

— Bobby Goepfert (2000-02): Played a club-record 96 games over two seasons and was named the USHL’s Player of the Year in 2002, the only RoughRider to ever win that award thus far. Posted a 2.04 goals against average that season and a stunning .936 save percentage. Had a career record here of 52-28-8. After playing collegiately at Providence and St. Cloud State, embarked on a lengthy professional career that included six seasons in Germany. Rejoined the club this season as an assistant coach.

— Alex Stalock (2004-06): Played 76 games in two seasons here and was MVP of the Clark Cup finals in 2005, the same year he was drafted in the fourth round by the NHL’s San Jose Sharks. After a fine college career at Minnesota-Duluth, “Al” turned pro, making his NHL debut with the Sharks in 2010-11. Still in the NHL as a backup for his hometown Minnesota Wild. Is 6-4 with a 2.67 goals against average in 13 games this season.

Also considered: Brady Hjelle (2007-08/2010-11), Ben Blacker (2014-16).

DEFENSEMEN

— Jack Ahcan (2015-16): His lone season in C.R. was capped by winning USHL Defenseman of the Year honors, the only RoughRider to claim that award. Had 14 goals and 44 points in 56 games. Was part of a United States team that won the World Junior Championships in 2017. A junior at St. Cloud State, he has 18 points in 20 games so far this season.

— Matt Donovan (2007-09): The only Oklahoman to ever play in the NHL had 31 goals and 82 points in 116 games over two seasons here. After two years at the University of Denver, he turned pro, joining the New York Islanders organization, which selected him in the fourth round of the 2008 NHL Draft. Has played 67 games at the highest level of the sport and is currently with the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville’s top affiliate), after spending two years overseas in Sweden.

— Alec Martinez (2004-05): The guy has done a lot of winning in his lengthy career. Had 10 goals in 58 games in the Riders’ Clark Cup championship season. A fourth-round pick of the Los Angeles Kings in 2007, his pro career has included two Stanley Cup championships (2012, 2014). In fact, he scored the overtime goal in Game 7 to win the Western Conference finals, then scored another overtime goal to win Game 5 and the Stanley Cup Finals against the New York Rangers. Has played in 529 NHL regular-season games and 64 playoff games.

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— Zach Miskovic (2002-05): A heart-and-soul guy who played in 180 games here over three seasons, including being a member of the 2005 Clark Cup champs. Played four years at St. Lawrence University, then turned pro. The 33-year-old recently celebrated playing in his 500th career professional game, all in the minor leagues. Currently with the Indy Fuel of ECHL.

— Ivan Provorov (2013-14): The highly touted Russian played here as a 16 and 17-year-old, scoring six goals in 56 games. He then went to Canada to play major junior hockey, developing into a first-round draft pick (seventh overall) of the Philadelphia Flyers in 2015. Played all 82 regular-season games with Philly his first two years in the NHL and has four goals and 17 assists in 47 games this season.

*— Chris Wideman (2007-08): Played one fairly unremarkable season in Cedar Rapids, then went on to Miami (Ohio). After four years there, turned professional and has gotten in 181 NHL regular-season games and 15 playoff games, scoring 17 total goals. Has played for three NHL teams this season (Ottawa, Edmonton and Florida), though began this weekend in the minor American Hockey League.

Also considered: Bryce Aneloski (2007-10), Derek Peltier (2002-04), Mitch Reinke (2014-16), Scott Perunovich (2016-17), Chris Snavely (1999-2003).

FORWARDS

— Justin Abdelkader (2004-05): Back before he won a NCAA title with Michigan State and played 667 NHL games (and counting) with his homestate Detroit Red Wings, Abdelkader was an 18-year-old kid attending Cedar Rapids Kennedy High School and scoring 27 goals in 60 regular-season games with the RoughRiders. Oddly, he didn’t record a single goal in 11 playoff games, though he was instrumental in C.R. winning the Clark Cup. Took the time in the middle of Detroit’s season a couple of years ago to return to town for a ceremony feating him, signing autographs for every single fan who wanted one. That’s class.

— Ross Colton (2014-16): He’s what the USHL is all about. Potted 18 goals in 58 games his first season here but decided to return to the RoughRiders for one more season before going to college. What a great decision. He set a club record with 35 goals in 2015-16 and got drafted in the fourth round in 2016 by the Tampa Bay Lightning. He spent two seasons at the University of Vermont, then turned pro. Is with Syracuse (Tampa’s top affiliate) of the American Hockey League.

— Chad Costello (2005-06): The first and so far only Iowan to play for the RoughRiders. From Johnston, Costello played one season here, and it was a great one. Put up 31 goals and 45 assists in 59 regular-season games, those 76 points a single-season club record. Played two seasons at Northeastern University, then went the professional route. Eleven seasons later, he’s still playing, with the Krefeld Penguins in Germany. Had a 41-goal season for the Allen Americans of the ECHL in 2014-15.

— Erik Foley (2013-15): A personal favorite, just because of the way he played. Was a prototypical power forward with a great shot. Scored 27 goals in 55 games in the 2014-15 season, with 80 penalty minutes. That got him drafted in the third round by the Winnipeg Jets that summer. Spent three seasons at Providence College, then decided to turn pro. Was acquired in a trade by the St. Louis Blues this past offseason but has not played a professional game, yet, because of concussion issues.

— Adam Gaudette (2014-15): The Boston native had 13 goals and 30 points in 50 games his only season in the USHL. That was good enough to get him drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in the fifth round in 2015. Went back home to play three seasons for Northeastern University, where he flourished. His 30 goals in just 38 games earned him last year’s Hobey Baker Award, the Heisman Trophy of college hockey. He signed with Vancouver following the season and has played in 37 NHL games in his young pro career.

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— Gerry Hickey (1999-2001): Hickey came to the team from Xaverian High School in Boston and made quite an impact. It wasn’t just his offensive exploits, as he scored 38 goals over two seasons, but his physical play that made fans adore him. Never shy in dropping the gloves and starting a scrap with an opponent, his 393 career penalty minutes is a club high. Gerry didn’t last long in college before moving to the pros, where he played for several minor league teams as an enforcer. He was out of hockey by 2005. Hickey suffered from some demons, and those demons ended his life in 2016 at a way-too-young 35.

— Jayson Megna (2009-11): Captained C.R.’s 2011 Anderson Cup winning team, playing all 60 regular-season games and going off for 30 goals. Added four goals in eight playoff games. One good freshman season at Nebraska-Omaha ensued, then a contract offer from the Pittsburgh Penguins. Megna took it, and has played 113 NHL games with Pittsburgh, the New York Rangers and Vancouver. Got married this past offseason to his longtime girlfriend, the daughter of United States Olympic goaltending hero Jim Craig.

— David Moss (2000-01): Can lay claim to being the very first former RoughRider to make it to the NHL. That was in the 2006-07 season when he played 41 games with the Calgary Flames. Had a 20-goal season with Calgary in 2008-09, part of a nine-year NHL career of 501 games. Michigan native had 20 goals in 51 games in his lone season in C.R., then went on to the University of Michigan for four years.

— Andrew Poturalski (2011-14): Played two games on an injury recall from the affiliate list in 2011-12, scoring two goals and adding an assist. Was a full-time player the following season, scoring 12 goals. Despite New Hampshire wanting him to go to college after that, Poturalski decided he needed to play one more year of junior. Wise decision, as he played in all 60 regular-season games, had 27 goals and 37 assists. Two good seasons at UNH led to a contract offer from the Carolina Hurricanes. Got into two games with Carolina in the 2016-17 season and is currently with the club’s AHL affiliate in Charlotte, where he has 17 goals in 42 games.

— Teddy Purcell (2004-06): No one could dangle with the puck like the Newfoundland native. Played 113 regular-season games here over two seasons and recorded 39 goals, 99 assists and 138 points. After one stellar season at the University of Maine, he signed a deal with the Los Angeles Kings, making his NHL debut in the 2007-08 season. Played 571 regular-season games in the NHL with L.A., Tampa Bay, Edmonton and Florida, picking up 307 points. Played last season in the Russian KHL before calling it a career. It was a good one.

— Mike Seidel (2006-09): Native of suburban Chicago played three seasons here, his final one his best, as he scored 29 goals in the regular season and another five in the playoffs. His 164 career points is a club record, as are his 103 career assists. Won a NCAA championship with Minnesota-Duluth in 2011, playing four seasons there. Then played four seasons of pro hockey in the minor-league ECHL.

— Tommy Wingels (2006-07): Had 10 goals and 28 points in 47 games here during his lone season. Went to Miami (Ohio) and played three years before signing with the San Jose Sharks, who had drafted him in 2008. Is playing in Switzerland this season after playing 448 NHL games previously with San Jose, Ottawa, Chicago and Boston. Had a career-high 16 goals in 2013-14 with the Sharks.

Others considered: Rob Ricci (2003-05), Cal Burke (2013-16), Nathan Smith (2017-19), Andrew Oglevie (2011-15), Hugh McGing (2014-16), Robin Bergman (2006-09), Jon Grabarek (2002-05), Kyle Flanagan (2007-09), Pat Cannone (2006-07), Andy Miele (2005-07).

l Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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