CEDAR RAPIDS – They might be a good team, they might not. About five months will tell that tale.
But if the first two games are any indication, the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders ought to be fun to watch. That’s if you enjoy goals and up-and-down hockey.
And who doesn’t?
“To be honest, both games this weekend were pretty fun to play in,” winger Alec Marsh said, after the Riders’ 5-4 loss to Sioux Falls in the home opener Saturday night at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena. “I’m hoping it stays this intense all season. But you’ve got to manage to get wins in these types of games.”
Sioux Falls got a go-ahead goal from former RoughRider Dennis Kravchenko late in the second period, built a three-goal lead in the third and hung on to disappoint the 2,204 fans on hand. The Riders won their season opener Friday night at Lincoln, 6-3.
Two games, 18 total goals, 11 from the good guys. Fun, right?
“Fun for the fans,” said RoughRiders Coach Mark Carlson.
“Typically, this isn’t what we want to do,” said Riders center Andrew Poturalski. “We want to keep the other team low scoring. If we score a lot of goals ourselves, that’s fine. But you can’t give up that many goals if you want to win games.”
Poturalski’s power-play tally with 8:49 to go brought the RoughRiders within the final margin. They did put some pressure on down the stretch, pulled goalie Chris Birdsall with a minute and change left but couldn’t send it to extra time.
Sioux Falls has an insane amount of offense from last season returning and has to be considered one of the top teams in the USHL, especially at the start of the season. So don’t look too discouragingly on this defeat.
Kravchenko, traded from Cedar Rapids after an off-ice incident two springs ago, beat Riders defenseman Scott Moldenhauer on a one-on-one rush to put his club ahead permanently with 1:30 left in the second period. He had 63 points for Sioux Falls last season, one of four returnees who scored at least 22 goals in 2012-13.
The telling stretch came early in the third period when Keith Burchett and Joe Schuldt scored goals 14 seconds apart to make it a 5-2 game.
“I think we need to be a little smarter in the defensive zone,” said Marsh, who had a pair of goals to get halfway to his 2012-13 season total. “On offense, we were clicking pretty well there. You can’t give up two goals in 14 seconds like that. We need to step it up.”
It was a first-year player that scored the first goal of the game, late in the first period. That’s a lot of firsts.
Casey Jerry took a feed in the slot from Jason Kalinowski, who was behind the net, was given time to aim and rifled a wrist shot into the top corner of the net over the glove of Sioux Falls goaltender David Jacobson. Riders netminder Chris Birdsall was sharp in turning away all 16 shots he faced in the first period, but Knutson and Buonincontri beat him six minutes apart in the second period for a 2-1 Stampede edge.
With not much going, Cedar Rapids was able to tie the game by forcing a turnover deep in the Sioux Falls zone. Marsh tipped a puck away from a Stampede defenseman, directly to Dylan McLaughlin, who went in alone on Jacobson.
The goalie made a miraculous initial save on a deking McLaughlin, but lost his stick, with the rebound going to Marsh.
“I give us credit because we battled back and gave ourselves a chance,” Poturalski said. “But we just can’t start out games like we did. We started out a little slow, and they came hard at us. Give them credit for what they did.”
“It was a good weekend for us,” Carlson said. “I think it gave the guys a taste of what the USHL is all about.”
The RoughRiders return to action Friday night at home against Youngstown. It’s their only game of the week.
Here is the official gamesheet:
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