CEDAR RAPIDS — They went into Friday night leading the United States Hockey League in goals, which is an impressive thing, for sure.
But probably the most important development of the weekend for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders came on the other side of the puck, so to speak.
A pair of wins came with only allowing the opponent to score three times total and once Saturday night in a 4-1 victory over Waterloo at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena. The RoughRiders (8-6) had given up 28 goals in their previous six games, which, not so coincidentally, included five losses.
“I think we’re improving,” said Riders Coach Mark Carlson. “The fact of the matter is we have a very inexperienced team. It’s just what it is. I really like our group, we’ve made good strides. We just got some key saves from Mully, and found a way to score (four) tonight.”
Mully is goaltender Derek Mullahy, and he was very, very good here. His 25 saves were highlighted by a pair of beauties: one in the second period in which he went spread eagle to rob Waterloo’s Wyatt Schingoethe at the post and another in the third in which he stoned an undefended Black Hawks player in front of the net with an ultra-quick glove.
That second save was so good, it tricked the goal judge, who turned his light on, perhaps just anticipating the puck was going into the net.
“I think this being my first year, it was a tough transition,” said Mullahy, an 18-year-old from the Boston area who has committed to play college hockey at Harvard. “But I’m realizing I belong here. It’s a great league. Just keep going from here, I guess.”
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Grant Silianoff had a short-handed breakaway goal early in the second period for C.R., with three goals in the third breaking a 1-1 tie. Nikolai Mayorov put the Riders on top for good at 3:30 by taking a perfect, home-run pass at the Waterloo blue line from defenseman Garrett Sundquist (who was deep in the corner in his own zone), skating in one-on-one and placing a shot top-right corner past Waterloo goalie Logan Stein.
Defenseman Michael Suda notched his first USHL goal with 8:03 left for a 3-1 Cedar Rapids lead. That came on the power play.
Jordan Tonelli, named team captain this week, had an empty netter with 1:45 to go. He played this weekend for the first time this season after incurring an upper body injury late in the preseason.
“We’ve got a long way to go, and we’ve got to get a lot better defensively still as well,” Carlson said.
The coach said second-year defenseman Will Francis has a meniscus tear that requires surgery, and he’ll be out of action for at least two months. Francis was a draft pick of the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks this past summer.
The team also deleted forward Mack Byers from the roster prior to Saturday’s game. Byers, who had two goals and three assists in 11 games, will join the Aberdeen Wings of the North American Hockey League.
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