CEDAR RAPIDS — What is the goaltending situation for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders this weekend?
“I don’t know,” Mark Carlson said.
It didn’t sound as if the Riders head coach was being insincere when he said that after Wednesday afternoon’s practice at ImOn Ice. Two days before playing a game, he didn’t really seem to know.
The RoughRiders were forced to go with 16-year-old Andrew Pichora for their two games last weekend against Waterloo. Pichora has spent this season playing for a 16U team in Pittsburgh.
Regular netminders Derek Mullahy and Aidan Harper have been out of commission with injuries. Mullahy last played Feb. 8 against Des Moines, Harper on Jan. 26 against Chicago.
Harper was acquired in a trade from the USHL’s Sioux City Musketeers because C.R. lost goalie Shamil Shmakov to injury after the holiday break.
“It is what it is, and we’ve got to continue to keep working,” Carlson said. “Keep battling. I don’t look at it as that difficult. We’ve just got to keep rallying.”
Pichora was a Phase I draft pick of Cedar Rapids last spring. He was backed up last weekend by another 16-year-old, Nick Simo, who joined the club on an emergency basis from a 16U team in Michigan.
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That’s where the RoughRiders are headed, playing Friday and Saturday nights in the Detroit suburbs against the older of the two United States National Team Development Program’s clubs. Cedar Rapids is 17-19-5, its 39 points placing it in seventh place in the USHL’s Eastern Conference.
The top six teams in each division get into the playoffs. The Riders are one point back of sixth-place Muskegon with two games in hand and just six points behind third-place Team USA.
Despite an insane amount of injuries overall, they’ve been playing good hockey. They split two games with Waterloo last weekend, outplaying the Black Hawks, the Western Conference leader, in both.
By the way, Pichora and Simo were the two goalies practicing Wednesday. Also practicing was forward Nikolai Mayorov, the team’s leading goal scorer who missed the third period of last Saturday’s game because of an injury.
So there’s at least that bit of good news.
“I thought we played good hockey for the majority of the weekend,” Carlson said. “I like how we’re playing. We’re competing, we’re playing pretty smart. We’ve been playing with good team spirit, with a team-first mentality. I’m excited about that.”
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