CEDAR RAPIDS — Some day, hopefully soon, the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders will be able to throw a complete lineup out there for games.
But they’re short-handed for now. Short-handed but not short on success.
A busy week concluded Saturday night with a gutty 2-1 win over Des Moines before 2,724 fans at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena. The Riders actually had 17 skaters, two more than they had Friday night in a 3-2 loss at Central Illinois and a 5-4 win Wednesday night at Green Bay.
You can dress 19 skaters in the United States Hockey League, if you didn’t know. Injuries and league-imposed suspensions left Cedar Rapids in this temporary bind.
“I think this week showed our depth,” said goaltender Blake Pietila. “That really gets me excited going into the playoffs. It shows we can play with anybody, no matter who’s in or who’s out of our lineup. We can still put a team together and compete every night.”
Liam Walsh and Nathan Smith had C.R.’s goals, Smith’s the winner early in the second period. He took a home run pass from linemate Grant Silianoff at the Des Moines blueline, skated in and beat Bucs goalie Roman Durny (an Anaheim Ducks draft pick) to the stick side.
That gave the RoughRiders (27-17-4, 58 standings points) a 2-0 lead. Former Rider T.J. Walsh scored six minutes into the third period for Des Moines, but Cedar Rapids held the fort.
Pietila made some huge and timely saves, including a couple in the final seconds, when Des Moines had pulled Durny for an extra attacker. Smith, by the way, logged copious amounts of minutes all week, double and sometimes triple shifted at center and on a wing.
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The RoughRiders dressed just nine forwards (three shy of normal) against Green Bay and 10 against Central Illinois.
The count was 11 in this game.
“I thought the effort out of our guys was tremendous,” said RoughRiders Coach Mark Carlson. “Playing nine forwards, 10 forwards, we were lucky enough to have 11 tonight. All the travel that we had. We played a lot of hockey this week. I’m just really proud of them.”
Carlson was asked if he was especially worried Saturday night that his team would have a lack of energy.
“Very,” he said. “But I thought we had good juice. We had to double-shift a lot of guys, but I thought we had a lot of guys going.
“Blake did a real good job leading from the goaltending position tonight. That was a heck of a hockey game out there. Des Moines is a heck of a hockey team. They’ve got guys who can make plays, as many as any team in the league, as far as guys who can make plays. Our guys followed the game plan.”
Cedar Rapids is solid in third place in the Eastern Conference, three points behind second-place Chicago and five up on fourth-place Youngstown. It hosts Madison on Wednesday night and is at Madison on Saturday night.
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