CEDAR RAPIDS – The Cedar Rapids RoughRiders have had a tough go of things lately.
The ‘Riders entered last night’s game against the Team USA Under-18 squad on a five-game losing streak, and had lost six of seven overall.
But a strong night in net for goaltender Danny Tirone and a hat trick from Andrew Poturalski solved that in a 5-2 win last night at The Stable.
“I thought we worked pretty hard and did a better job of playing as a team,” said RoughRiders Coach Mark Carlson. “(Andrew) had a nice night for us. He’s a veteran player, and that’s what you need out of veteran guys to win in this league.
“We need more of that stuff. … We need guys to pick their game up like Pots did tonight.”
Poturalski entered the night as the ‘Riders’ leading scorer with 48 points (17 goals, 31 assists) and backed that up in a big way.
He scored on a power play for Cedar Rapids, and got all three goals in a row – the last coming unassisted, after the center stole the puck in front of Team USA’s goal and stuffed it.
He essentially dismissed his own performance in favor of the boost the team got in picking up the victory as they push towards the postseason.
“It felt good (to score three), but it feels even better to get the win and two big points on the board for the boys,” Poturalski said. “It was a huge win for us. I know we lost a few in a row, but to get back in the win column and get two points towards the playoffs is big.”
In addition to Poturalski, Nate Widman and Dylan Steman had goals. Andrew Gaus, Kevin Shand, Frederick Tiffels (two) and Charlie Curti all assisted on goals as well.
As big as Poturalski’s night was, the defensive effort the RoughRiders put forth might’ve been even bigger.
After losing three straight games by one goal, the success of killing off six power plays combined with their offense was invaluable.
“We don’t win without either of them,” Tirone said of the offensive and defensive performance. “The goals are big, they’re huge. Defense is just as big. We all know in here that defense wins. You can score as many goals as you want, but if you don’t play good defense, you’re going to have a tough time winning.”
And don’t forget Tirone’s own performance.
The 20-year-old who’s headed to New Hampshire stopped 24 of 26 shots, and saw continuous action all night while dealing with Team USA’s impressive speed.
“He was huge,” Poturalski said of Tirone. “He’s always there for us. He’s always going to have our back, so we’ve got to have his. He was solid the full 60 minutes.”
The ‘Riders play Team USA again tonight at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena at 7:05 p.m., but after that only have two more at home.
And as always when a team is coming off a losing streak, one win doesn’t cure all. There’s still work to do over the final eight games of the season, but last night’s win certainly was an important one before the final push.
“I think (tonight) was huge for us,” Poturalski said. “We were playing well previous games and weren’t getting the result, but it was nice to finally get a win and play solid a full 60 minutes.“We’re just trying to get two points every night. We’re not really worried about what anyone else is doing, we’re doing our thing. We’re trying to secure our playoff spot.”