CEDAR RAPIDS – It’s a long season, and there’s a long way to go. Mark Carlson remains positive about his hockey club, and you wouldn’t expect anything else.
“I really like our team,” the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders head coach/general manager said Thursday.
The Riders go into their game tonight at home against the Waterloo Black Hawks on a two-game losing streak. They have dropped six of eight to fall to 7-7-2 overall, a whopping 17 points behind the staggering pace Dubuque is setting in the United States Hockey League’s Eastern Conference.
The Fighting Saints are 15-2-1.
Carlson made a couple of player moves this week, trading second-year forward Landon Smith to the Chicago Steel for Phillip Marinaccio. Because Marinaccio is Canadian, the RoughRiders had to let one of their four imports go, with Eetu Karvinen being placed on waivers and picked up by Sioux City.
Marinaccio made his Cedar Rapids debut Thursday night at Waterloo. He had six goals and nine points in 15 games for the Steel.
“He’s got real good makeup,” Carlson said. “He’s a natural center. He makes plays, and he can score goals, as well.”
Carlson also is enthused by the return of forward Bryson Cianfrone, who missed a month because of an emergency appendectomy. Riley Bourbonnais leads the club with seven goals and 16 points in 15 games.
The RoughRiders have allowed no fewer than three goals in each of their last six games, so that’s something that must improve. Carlson said he likes the improvement goaltenders Chad Catt and Chris Birdsall have made of late.
Both are first-year USHLers making the significant jump from major midget.
“I think our goaltenders are playing well,” Carlson said. “Their numbers at the beginning of the year maybe weren’t where they wanted them to be, but they have both come on and played good hockey. It’s no different than in years past with guys like Richard Bachman, Mike Johnson, Troy Grosenick and Alex Stalock. They are improving.”
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