CEDAR RAPIDS — The Cedar Rapids RoughRiders played their first-ever home game at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena almost 20 years ago to the day.
It was January 8, 2000, to be exact. The uber-exciting tilt went into a shootout, with the Riders winning.
So it was set up perfectly Saturday night for a historical repeat. On a weekend the United States Hockey League club celebrated its two-decade anniversary, it played another uber-exciting game that went into a shootout.
Only the RoughRiders didn’t win this time. Alex Yakovenko’s goal was the only one, as Muskegon skated away with a 4-3 victory.
The Lumberjacks have the league’s best standings point total of 49, on a sterling 24-6-1 record. Thus, it was a really good weekend for Cedar Rapids (14-12-4, 32), which beat them Friday night and ended up taking three of four possible points.
“It’s definitely a big confidence booster,” said RoughRiders winger Jason Polin, who had a goal and two assists. “To get three out of four points against one of the top teams, if not the top, is pretty important. Especially coming off Christmas break and everything, it’s good to keep that momentum going.”
An on-ice pregame ceremony featured Cedar Rapids Mayor Brad Hart, RoughRiders owner Tony Sdao and Coach/General Manager Mark Carlson, who has been here since day one. Hart spoke to the crowd, and Sdao and Carlson held up a large green street sign.
It was announced the one-way road next to the arena now will be known as RoughRiders Way SW. The club recently agreed to an arena lease extension that will guararantee its stay here for 15 years.
There were several giveaways to fans Saturday night, including to the 1.5-millionth fan to attend a game at The Stable: Jack Hoeger of Cedar Rapids. He was featured recently in a Gazette story.
“I’ve kind of been sticking to the day-by-day thing,” Carlson said, when asked about this weekend’s 20-year celebration. “I think it’s a pretty neat thing that we’ve been here for 20 years and established what we’ve established. But it’s really important to realize we’re working hard every day to get better and improve, all those things. All in all, it’s been a great 20 years in Cedar Rapids. For sure.”
Grant Silianoff gave Cedar Rapids a 1-0 lead with a power-play goal midway through the first period. Muskegon tied it late in the period, but Jason Polin gave the RoughRiders a 2-1 lead on a short-handed goal at 18:54.
The Lumberjacks took a 3-2 lead with goals 50 seconds apart early in the second period. Aidan McDonough tied it a couple of minutes later, and that’s how the game stayed through regulation and overtime.
Cedar Rapids had a 4-on-3 power play in OT, but could not get the winner past Muskegon goalie Brandon Bussi, who stopped all three RoughRiders shootout attempts. He came into Saturday’s game having played 1,537 of his team’s 1,797 minutes this season.
Blake Pietila took the loss for Cedar Rapids.
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