CEDAR RAPIDS — They say it’s going to be just like any other game. But you get the sense the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders wouldn’t be surprised if it doesn’t turn out that way.
The rival Waterloo Black Hawks come to town tonight for an expected 7:15 puck drop. That always turns up the heat.
Then there’s the last time these teams played, two weeks ago in Waterloo. Cedar Rapids blasted the Black Hawks, 6-1, and knocked two of their top players out of the game with injuries.
Forward Justin Kloos suffered a concussion, broken nose and a 40-stitch gash on his face after taking an open-ice hit by Corey Petrash of the RoughRiders. Petrash was given a match penalty (intent to injure) for elbowing and a 10-game USHL suspension that was chopped to five after a meeting with the league’s disciplinary board this week.
Riders defenseman Justin Wade received a boarding penalty for a check that gave Nashville Predators draft pick Zach Stepan a concussion. Kloos and Stepan are expected to miss significant time.
“It’s an unfortunate loss. It’s a costly one. Those are two of the best players in the league ... to reckless stuff,” Waterloo Coach P.K. O’Handley told the Waterloo Courier. “That is probably the worst part for me. This league talks about reckless play and when you lose two pretty good players, which seems right now for an extended period of time, it’s unfortunate.”
Petrash and Wade defended their hits when told about O’Handley’s “reckless” comments.
“Both were hits that were due to playing good hockey,” Wade said.
“It wasn’t like we were going after them and trying to hurt them or anything,” Riders co-captain Ian Brady said. “I thought they were both good hits.”
Riders coach Mark Carlson chose to stand above the fray when asked about O’Handley’s comments.
“I respectfully have no comment,” he said.
So will there be some sort of attempted retribution tonight?
“I’m not worried about it,” Wade said. “I embrace that physical kind of play.”