CEDAR RAPIDS — It has gotten to this point of absurdity for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders.
Marek Valach had a skate blade malfunction in the third period Wednesday night and missed a few minutes while getting it fixed. That left his short-handed club crazy short handed up front, down to eight forwards for awhile.
Eight stinking forwards! If you’re not into hockey, teams normally dress 12, four full lines.
“It’s tough to get going,” said Matthew Thomson, after the Riders perservered past Madison, 4-1, at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena. “You come back to the bench and try and catch your breath, and you already hear your named called again ... You’ve just got to keep your shifts short, get pucks deep, get the puck out of your ‘D’ zone as well. Just play smart hockey. Play it as simple as possible.”
Cedar Rapids scored four goals in the first period, which were enough to pull within three standings points of Chicago for sixth place and the final available playoff spot in the USHL’s Eastern Conference. The teams have four regular-season games apiece remaining.
Who the heck knows how many forwards the RoughRiders will have available for their game Friday night at Sioux City. They dressed 11 for this one, including Valach, who originally was supposed to miss the rest of the season because of a broken finger.
“We just keep battling through it,” said C.R.’s Roman Ahcan. “We’ll be fine.”
He had two of his team’s goals here, with Thomson and Nathan Smith scoring the others. Smith was given a game misconduct penalty 15 seconds into the second period for something he apparently said to a Madison player on the ice and missed the final two periods.
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Winger Harry Roy took a blow to the head from an opponent late in the first period and was diagnosed with a concussion. Graham Slaggert missed his second consecutive game after being concussed in Cedar Rapids’ game at Dubuque last Friday night.
Oh, by the way, Smith’s gamer automatically means he has to serve a one-game suspension.
“I thought we hung in there really good tonight,” said RoughRiders Coach Mark Carlson. “I thought we continued to generate some offense, looked pretty good defensively. So I give the guys a lot of credit.”
Jason Polin and Josh Bohlin were the only natural centers left standing at the end of this one. Unreal.
“You’ve just got to plug in spots where you’re playing,” Ahcan said. “Some guys are going to be moved to center, some are going to be moved to wing. The ‘D’ will come up sometimes (and play forward). You’ve just got to stick with it. Stick to your systems.”
Blake Pietila made 24 saves to get the win in goal for Cedar Rapids. Madison’s lone goal came short handed early in the second period.
Short handed. Yeah, definitely the theme of this game.
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