CEDAR RAPIDS — If the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders end up failing to qualify for the United States Hockey League playoffs, they might just look back at one statistic as the reason why.
A 4-3 loss Friday night to Green Bay at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena was their eighth in overtime this season. That’s more than any other team.
When you’re not picking up that extra standings point in games, that’s tough. Brock Caufield finished off a hat trick with a goal with 1:35 left to win it for Green Bay.
Graham Slaggert lost an edge near the boards in the Gamblers zone, losing control of the puck and leading to a Green Bay 2-on-1 rush. Trenton Bliss carried it into the C.R. zone and sent a cross-ice pass to Caufield between the circles, his one-timer beating Riders goalie Jiri Patera.
“It’s not like we’re losing every overtime game we’re in,” said RoughRiders winger Jordan Timmons. “The margin of error is just so thin in overtime ... The little things are so important. One little mishap can lead to a good chance for them.”
Cedar Rapids (20-23-9, 49 points) has played 16 games that have gone beyond regulation, one fewer than league-leader Sioux City. The RoughRiders are now 7-9 in those games: 4-8 in OT and 3-1 in shootouts.
The Riders remain three points back of Chicago for sixth place and the final available playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Both teams have eight regular-season games remaining.
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Cedar Rapids hosts Green Bay again Saturday night at 7. It played a very good hockey game here in most respects, holding Green Bay without an official shot on goal in the second period and taking a 3-1 lead.
Timmons had his team-high 20th goal of the season a minute in, with Slaggert scoring four minutes later and Liam Walsh exactly 10 minutes after that. Noah Prokop got Green Bay within 3-2 with 9:02 left in the third, a point shot that deflected off him and was reviewed before standing.
RoughRiders defenseman Ilya Sushko was given a five-minute boarding penalty with 5:46 left, and Green Bay took advantage, with Caufield scoring to tie it with 2:16 left.
“We didn’t lay back at all (in the third period). Zero lay back. No question whatsoever, no lay back,” said RoughRiders Coach Mark Carlson. “Played well, did tons of good things, a lot of good players, good performance in goal. Zero lay back at any point in the entire hockey game.”
Just a very tough loss.
“Anytime you are in a close game, you want to win it,” Timmons said. “We got into penalty trouble, obviously, and a couple of bad bounces ended up goals for them. I think we outplayed them in the long run ... We’ve got more games left, and we’re confident we can come back tomorrow and take it to them and keep it going through the rest of the season.”
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