CEDAR RAPIDS – Don’t look at the team directly behind them in the standings. Look a couple teams beyond that.
It always has been first things first with this organization under head coach Mark Carlson.
“Take it day by day,” said Corey Petrash, after his team’s 3-2 Friday night loss to Omaha before 2,788 fans at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena. “Every game is important now. Next one’s at Dubuque.”
That’s on Saturday night and determines who is in second place in the Eastern Conference. The Fighting Saints narrowed their gap to a point back of the RoughRiders with a win Friday at Chicago, and they have two games in hand.
Cedar Rapids (32-20-3, 67 points) still remains 11 points up on Chicago, Muskegon and Green Bay in the standings. The top four teams in each division qualify for the postseason, with the top two earning home-ice advantage in the first round.
The Riders have five regular-season games remaining, one at home.
“Why is tomorrow night any bigger than any other night?” Carlson said.
“We’re not looking at clinching (a playoff berth) at any certain spot here,” Petrash said. “We’re just going every day, trying to win every game. Just trying to get into the playoffs, get into the tournament.”
Omaha (37-13-5, 79 points) already is in the dance in the Western Conference. The Lancers got the game-winning goal from Luca Frigo 5:49 into the third period, 13 seconds after Freddy Tiffels scored to tie the game for Cedar Rapids.
“Lack of execution, you know?” Carlson said. “We didn’t deserve it tonight, didn’t do what was necessary to win.”
He was asked for specifics.
“Just physical sacrifice, guys taking physical shortcuts. Things like that,” he said.
Andrew Oglevie, who had jump all night, tipped in a point shot from defenseman Charlie Curti for a power-play goal midway through the first period for a 1-0 Cedar Rapids lead. Niklas Folin and Anthony Angello scored in the second period to put Omaha on top.
Making his seventh consecutive start, Danny Tirone took the loss in goal. Omaha outshot Cedar Rapids, 29-27.
The Riders threatened mightily on a pair of third-period power plays, including one with four minutes to go when Omaha was nailed for too many men on the ice. But, alas, no tying goal.
“I thought we played all right,” Petrash said. “Thought we made a couple mistakes there. We just need everybody going 100 percent every game. We lacked that a little bit tonight.”
“I don’t think we played our best game,” Oglevie said. “I thought they came out and wanted it a little more than we did. So we’ve got to adjust a few things for tomorrow, go into Dubuque and win a hockey game because they’re all big now.”
Forward Erik Foley made his RoughRiders' debut and played a strong game, strong enough to be given shifts with six minutes left. He was temporarily called up from his prep school team but will return there.
Forward Carlos Fornaris sat out as part of a USHL suspension. Forward Mitch Maloney continues his absence because of injury, as does defenseman Nate Widman. Forward Kevin Shand did not play via coach's decision.
Carlson said he did not know when, or if, Widman or Maloney would return to the lineup.
Here is the official gamesheet: