CEDAR RAPIDS – The guy that wasn’t good enough for “The Program” beat “The Program” last night.
Chris Birdsall played probably his best game as a Cedar Rapids RoughRider in a 3-2 shootout win over Team USA’s Under-18 team. It’s the third win in a row for the rejuvenated Riders, their second straight shootout win after dropping their previous six over the last two seasons.
Birdsall, who just turned 16, was signed to a USHL tender last spring by the RoughRiders, after a tryout with USA Hockey’s program. He showed why he is considered the country’s top goaltender for his age group, making several saves on point-blank chances, then stoning all three Team USA skaters in the shootout.
It was a terrific performance against the blue bloods of hockey in this country. There were a slew of NHL scouts in the crowd to watch Team USA, which will – as always – have several players taken in this spring’s NHL draft.
“The team really helped me out tonight,” said Birdsall. “They blocked a lot of shots. That kept me going.”
Dylan Steman’s shake-and-bake move on C.R.s first try won the game.
“We really like our dressing room right now,” said RoughRiders Coach Mark Carlson. “We like the people that we have. Everyone is working hard. We need to keep getting better. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Shane Eiserman’s power-play goal tied this game at 2-2 and sent it to extra time. It came with one second remaining on Andrew Poturalski’s hooking penalty for the Riders.
Cedar Rapids scored first in the first on a great individual effort by Davey Middleton. On a Team USA power play, he stole a pass near his team’s blueilne, skated in most unfettered and wristed an absolutely perfectly placed shot into the top right corner of the net.
Time of the shorty was 18:41.
Team USA’s Dawson Cook had a goal in the first period disallowed because the referee had whistled the play dead before Cook pushed a puck past Birdsall. He made up for it with a goal midway through the second period that did count and make it a 1-1 game.
Like Middleton’s goal, C.R.’s Gerry Mayhew had a bad turnover near his own blueline, with Cook picking up the disc, skating in alone and wristing a short past Birdsall on the stick side.
The RoughRiders recaptured the lead late in the period, however, when Judd Peterson picked up a loose puck in front of the net and slid it past Team USA goalie Hunter Miska. Time of the goal was 16:13.
Cedar Rapids made a bunch of trades and player signees over the last month and those have seemed to get this team going. The RoughRiders 11-11-3 for 25 points, fifth in the USHL’s Eastern Conference.
This was the older of the two Team USA squads.
Here is the gamesheet:
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