CEDAR RAPIDS — Pretty good, but not quite good enough.
That summed up Saturday night’s 3-2 loss to Dubuque for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders. And the United States Hockey League season to this point for the club, really.
Matthew Kopperud’s goal with 4:41 left salvaged the weekend for the Fighting Saints, who improved their gaudy record to 19-4-1. It was Kopperud’s second of the game, a tip-in of a centering pass from teammate Riese Gaber, who skated around the net and fed him.
“We just didn’t play 60 minutes,” was Riders Coach Mark Carlson’s simple summary.
Cedar Rapids (11-14-1) seemed poised to sweep these two games against its rival, which would have been a huge pick-me-up post-holiday break. The RoughRiders beat Dubuque, 6-5, Friday night to break a seven-game losing streak.
Ryan Taylor’s deflection goal 1:28 into the third period tied things at 2-2, and that’s how it stayed until late. Kopperud’s first goal, early in the second period, was similar in that he was unchecked in front of the net and tipped in a pass.
“I’m not going to mention anybody specifically, but I just think it’s a lack of focus,” said Carlson, who made all of his players unavailable for interviews postgame. “That’s exactly what it is. It’s frustrating on any given night when we don’t have the focus and don’t concentrate on what we need to do.”
Defenseman Bennett Zmolek’s first USHL goal started the scoring late in the first period. He joined a 3-on-2 rush and wristed a shot past Dubuque goaltender Hobie Hedquist.
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But Cedar Rapids really didn’t seem to make Hedquist, a 16-year-old playing his first USHL game, squirm, so to speak, nearly enough in the game. Counterpart Aidan Harper, acquired with Taylor in a trade from Sioux City this week, played well in his Riders debut, making 25 saves.
The RoughRiders have scored more goals than they’ve allowed (86 to 83) but have just an 11-14-1 record. Those 23 points have them in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, with the team right behind them (Muskegon) coming to town for a pair of games next weekend.
The top six teams in each division qualify for the USHL playoffs.
The league announced this weekend the rosters for late January’s BioSteel All-American Game in Plymouth, Mich. A roster of USHL players will face the United States National Team Development Program’s Under-18 team, with RoughRiders defensemen Ben Meehan and Alex Gagne selected for the USHL team.
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