CEDAR RAPIDS – And now it’s time for the really tough part of a really tough weekend.
The Cedar Rapids RoughRiders will hop on their charter bus early Sunday morning for a 3:05 p.m. game at Green Bay, fresh off a 5-2 loss to the Lincoln Stars on Saturday night at The Stable.
This was not a sharp or particularly inspired performance for a club that has given a lot of them the second half of the United States Hockey League season. Perhaps you could chalk some of it up to the schedule.
The Riders won Friday night at Sioux City, but caught snowy weather on the way home and got back to town about 4 a.m. Now it’s back to the road, making it roughly 20 hours on a bus for 180 minutes of hockey.
“It’s just part of the game,” said RoughRiders captain Nate Widman. “It’s just trying to mimic a pro schedule. That’s kind of what we’re doing with three games in three cities. Coach always talks about this is a men’s league, it’s not for boys. If you can’t handle it, you shouldn’t be here.”
Dubuque pulled into a second-place tie with Cedar Rapids, so even one standings point Sunday would be huge, though you wonder how the RoughRiders will be able to summon enough energy to accomplish that. By the way, it’ll also be the third game in as many days for Green Bay, though all three will be at home.
“The schedule is the schedule,” said RoughRiders Coach Mark Carlson. “You can comment on it, feel free to comment on it common sense wise if you’d like. But I have nothing to say, I guess.”
Because of the bad weather, Lincoln didn’t arrive at the Arena until 5:50 for a 7:15 faceoff, but the Stars showed no signs of “bus legs,” playing the better opening period and scoring its only goal (from John Simonson). Cedar Rapids continued its rather lethargic ways in the second, with Christian Lamprasso beating Riders goaltender Danny Tirone with a long wrist shot from the top of the faceoff circle that appeared to deflect off Tirone’s stick and into the net at 6:05.
But that 2-0 deficit didn’t last too long. Andrew Poturalski scored his 14th goal of the season two minutes after Lampasso’s goal, jamming home a loose puck at the side of the net just before it came off its moorings.
Defenseman Mark Auk tied it with 4:07 left on a long snap shot from the middle of the ice that went through traffic and past Lincoln netminder Michael Bitzer. Before you could feel good about the rally, though, Lincoln took back a two-goal edge on goals from Blake Christensen and Ludvig Hoff less than a minute apart.
Lincoln’s David Parrottino scored on a breakaway after stealing an outlet pass late in the third for the final margin.
“We didn’t have energy tonight,” Carlson said. “We have to find a way to somehow muster some tomorrow.”
The Riders had a golden opportunity to get back in the game with 5:34 of continuous power-play time late in the second period and early in the third. That included 2:04 of 5-on-3 play.
But nothing became of it, and you sense that was the game.
“We weren’t executing when we had to,” Widman said. “To get a goal or two there would have changed the game. We just didn’t get it done. That’s something we have to work on and get better at.”
The Riders continue to play without important offensive cogs Judd Peterson and Mitch Maloney, both out with injuries. Peterson is the team’s leading goal scorer and has missed eight consecutive games. Forward Kevin Shand also sat out Saturday.
Cedar Rapids plays two games this coming weekend in Ann Arbor, Mich., against the United States National Team Development Program, with the next home game Wednesday, March 12 against Dubuque.
Here is the official gamesheet: