Minor League Sports

Muskegon scores early and often in 8-4 win over Cedar Rapids RoughRiders

CEDAR RAPIDS — This thing has gotten sideways for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders. Gone off the rails a bit.

Whatever tired cliche you want to use, it’s not going real well for the green and white right now, especially on the defensive end. There’s your bottom line.

An 8-4 loss Saturday night to Muskegon at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena added to a spate of games in which the Riders have simply given up too many goals.

That total was 20 this week in three games. At least Cedar Rapids was able to win one of those Friday night against the Lumberjacks.

The RoughRiders (12-16-1, 25 standings points) are 2-10 in their last dozen games and have dropped to seventh place, two points behind sixth-place Muskegon in the Eastern Conference. The top six teams in each division qualify for the United States Hockey League playoffs, though there’s a ton of season left before that stuff gets decided.

“I think a lot of it is mental,” said RoughRiders captain Jordan Tonelli. “Mental lapses here and there. It starts with everyone just having focus on specific things defensively. Just being in the right spot.”

This was the bizzaro game from last night, in that Muskegon sprinted to a 3-0 first-period lead. Cedar Rapids did that Friday night.

The Lumberjacks were able to bounce back and force overtime, with the RoughRiders not really coming close to having that happen here. Starting goaltender Derek Mullahy was pulled in favor of Aidan Harper after giving up a fifth Muskegon goal early in the second period that gave Muskegon a 5-1 lead.

“That was extremely frustrating, extremely disappointing,” Tonelli said, of the early deficit.

Alex Gaffney had a hat trick for the Lumberjacks. Bennett Zmolek, Jack O’Leary, Nate Hanley and Nikolai Mayorov had C.R.’s goals.

The game turned old-school USHL in the third period, with 118 penalty minutes. There were a pair of fights, and Donte Lawson of the Riders was double-minor for roughing and a 10-minute misconduct for trying to go from his bench to Muskegon’s bench to get at Lumberjacks forward Tanner Edwards and vice versa.

Edwards was a major pest the entire game, accumulating 56 penalty minutes to add to his league-leading total, which sits at 161 in 25 games. At one point, he came out of the penalty box and went right back in after a jawing match with C.R.’s Michael Posma.

“I think that’s really good,” Tonelli said. “I’m proud of the guys that stepped in there and fought. It shows some fight, some fight back from our guys. That was really good to see.”

Cedar Rapids plays Friday night at Des Moines and hosts the Buccaneers the following night.

Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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