CEDAR RAPIDS – This is not the United States Hockey League Phil Osaer left back in 1998. Not even close.
He’s the first guy to say that.
“It’s been humbling in a lot of ways,” the first-year Cedar Rapids RoughRiders assistant coach said prior to the Riders’ 6-1 loss Friday night to the Dubuque Fighting Saints in Dubuque. “When I first came in, my first day of camp this season, I was shocked by how great these kids are. The fast pace, how smart they were, how in shape they were. It was just worlds different than when I was in the league originally. That part of it has been great to see. To see how dedicated these players are.”
Osaer was a goaltender for those dastardly Waterloo Black Hawks the 1997-98 USHL season. He’s on the “good” side of this rivalry now.
The 33-year-old Michigan native was hired by head coach/general manager Mark Carlson after concluding a 12-year professional playing career. A draft pick of the St. Louis Blues, Osaer never made the NHL, seeing time in the American Hockey League, East Coast Hockey League, England and Norway.
It was as a member of the Cardiff Devils in England where he met his wife, Samantha. That’s some karma right there.
So is being a nephew of Ron Vanderlinden. He is a longtime college football coach, most recently linebackers coach at Penn State.
“He was always one of the stars of the family,” Osaer said. “I think he put (coaching) in my head at a young age.”
Carlson actually recruited Osaer out of high school when he was an assistant coach at Northeastern University. Unsuccessfully, since Osaer ended up playing three years at Ferris State instead.
But that connection likely helped Osaer land one of two open assistant coaching jobs last offseason.
“I remember telling him when he was recruiting me that I wanted to be a college hockey coach some day,” Osaer said.
Being an assistant in the USHL is a start toward achieving that goal. Osaer works with Riders goaltenders Danny Tirone and Chris Birdsall, is in charge of the team’s defensemen during games and does the usual scouting and recruiting work all USHL assistants do.
“The spectrum of what goes on here on a day-to-day basis on the other side of it has been just eye opening,” Osaer said. “As a player, you’re really naïve about everything that goes on behind the scenes. That end of it has been a big learning curve for me. But, you know, it’s been fun.”
The RoughRiders (19-14-1, 39 points) gave up five unanswered goals Friday to lose handily. Tirone was chased after allowing three goals in a little less than three minutes of the second period.
Mitch Maloney had Cedar Rapids' only tally, a late first-period goal that tied the game at 1-1. The RoughRiders host Indiana on Saturday night at approximately 7:15.
Here is the official gamesheet: