CEDAR RAPIDS – There’s a scene in the 1990’s comedic baseball movie “Major League” where Lou Brown, manager of the woebegone Cleveland Indians, turns to one of his coaches after a well-played victory and exclaims “It’s starting to come together, Patrick!”
This isn’t a movie, you’re talking about a different sport here, and there’s no Patrick around anywhere. But you can go ahead and say it.
It’s starting to come together for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders.
"I think you can see that," said RoughRiders Coach Mark Carlson, after a 4-1 Saturday night win over the Chicago Steel before 2,962 fans at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena. "It's the group as a whole. We've got a lot of different guys doing good things for the team right now."
Alec Marsh had the go-ahead goal late in the second period, and the Riders killed off what seemed an endless stream of penalties to win for the fourth time in five games. Cedar Rapids (19-13-1, 39 standings points) swept a pair of weekend games and inched into third place in the USHL's Eastern Conference.
"Ever since we came back from (holiday) break," said RoughRiders winger Judd Peterson of his team's surge. "With the new guys coming in, I feel like there's a lot closer bond with each other. Great leadership from (captain) Nathan Widman. I just feel like the team is gelling right now, and we've just got to keep it going."
There was bad news on this night, however, as forward Nick Master had to be taken away on a stretcher after suffering what appeared to be a broken left ankle in the second period. He got tangled up with a Chicago player behind his own net and fell awkwardly while being hooked to the ice.
Master remained face down on the ice for a number of minutes and was fitted for an air cast before being lifted onto the stretcher. He was taken via ambulance to a local hospital following the game.
"I don't want to speculate," Carlson said, when asked the extent of Master's injury.
Brennan Sanford scored on the ensuing power play just 18 seconds later, and Frederick Tiffels added another goal with 55.6 seconds remaining in the period for what turned out to be the final margin. They are two of the four additions Carlson made over break that have seemed to jump start this team.
Goaltender Danny Tirone continued his stellar play for Cedar Rapids, making 40 saves in his ninth consecutive start. He was particularly good in the third period, helping the RoughRiders erase seven (yes, seven) Chicago power plays.
The Steel essentially were a man up, and sometimes two, for 12 straight minutes. Carlson just laughed on the bench and shook his head at one point after his team received a questionable two-minute interference call.
"It seemed like every time I was going to go out there for a 5-on-5 shift, someone was going to the box," Peterson said. "I don't how many penalties we got. It was insane. But the guys stuck together and battled through it."
Cedar Rapids squashed 10 Chicago power plays in the game. Cedar Rapids had three man advantages, by the way.
"The guys gutted it out," Carlson said. "You've just got to grind it out, have mental toughness. Guys battled, it was great."
Peterson pounced on a loose puck during a goal-mouth scramble to tie the game at 1-1 midway in the first period. Marsh came out of the penalty box (go figure) and received a long pass that set him loose on a breakaway he converted with 4:40 left in the second period for a 2-1 Riders edge.
Cedar Rapids plays Friday night at Dubuque and hosts Indiana the following night.
Here is the official gamesheet: