CEDAR RAPIDS — It’s five home games to start the unofficial second half of the United States Hockey League season for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders. One is down, and it didn’t end well.
Connor MacEachern scored with 3:48 left to lift Youngstown to a 3-2 win over the Riders. Cedar Rapids gave up the game’s first two goals, came back to tie it, only to lose the game — and at least one standings point — late.
Des Moines comes to town Saturday night.
“We go day by day,” Riders Coach Mark Carlson said, when asked the importance of getting some wins on this long homestand. “We’ve got to find a way to get better.”
The RoughRiders (12-12-3, 27 points) dropped into fifth place in the Eastern Conference with the loss. They could just never seem to get any sort of consistent pressure on Youngstown goaltender Christian Stoever who began the season here and played one game before being traded.
Stoever made 20 saves. Blake Pietila, his C.R. counterpart, had 15.
“Credit them for playing a good game,” Carlson said. “They did a good job of clogging up the shooting lanes. But we’ve got to have more mental toughness to (combat that).”
MacEachern assisted on his team’s first two goals (from Jack Malone and Buffalo Sabres draft pick Brett Murray). Youngstown won a faceoff in its own territory on the winning play, with a 2-on-2 rush eventually developing.
Malone threw a deft centering pass from right wing to MacEachern, who deked and backhanded a shot past Pietila. Cedar Rapids pulled Pietila in the final minute and had a 6-on-4 power play for the final 25 seconds but couldn’t tie it.
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Nathan Smith had the Riders’ first goal midway through the second period, driving hard to the net and eventually knocking home a rebound of his own shot. Jason Polin’s tip of a Smith slapshot on the power play tied the game at 5:16 of the third.
“We didn’t have enough guys impacting the game,” Carlson said. “That’s one thing we need. More guys impacting games.”
Friday marked the USHL debut of 16-year-old winger Nate Hanley for the RoughRiders. The Rocky Point, N.Y., resident was in to take the place of winger Jerry Harding, who is out with mononucleosis.
Hanley has been playing with the P.A.L. Islanders U16 team and is a Northeastern University commit. He is a RoughRiders affiliate roster player who is allowed only a certain number of games played before he must be added to the main roster.
Carlson said he anticipates Hanley sticking around and playing again next weekend. Others not dressed Friday were defensemen Evan McIntyre and Adam Backehag (healthy scratches) and forwards Marek Valach, Chase Hamstad and Joe Hankinson (all upper-body injuries).
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