Home ice in the playoffs on the line this weekend for RoughRiders

Published: April 3 2014 | 5:31 pm - Updated: 7 April 2014 | 3:10 pm in

CEDAR RAPIDS - The playoff hairstyle of choice this season is the Mohawk.

It's a hockey thing. To promote team unity, clubs that make the postseason seem to always mess with their locks.

NHLers grow beards, but some of these kids in the United States Hockey League can't go that route because they're too young to grow facial hair. So for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders in 2014, it's the Mohawk.

The boys look pretty good with them.

"I think everyone all around just decided to do it," said RoughRiders forward Dylan McLaughlin. "I think they used to go bleach, so this is something different. We're dying our Mohawks black, too, so that'll be good."

How come the coaching staff never partakes, Riders boss Mark Carlson was asked?

"If we win it all, I'll get one," Carlson said.

The RoughRiders know they'll play Dubuque in the Eastern Conference semifinals, which should be a really cool series between Eastern Iowa neighbors. They know the best-of-five series will begin next Friday, though they don't know where Game 1 will be played.

If Cedar Rapids can squeeze one standings point from its remaining two regular-season games against Waterloo, Friday at home and Saturday on the road, it'll earn home-ice advantage. The only way it won't get home ice is if it is swept in regulation and Dubuque wins its last two regular-season games at Youngstown and Team USA.

It's that simple.

"It'd be awesome. This is my first playoff experience, so getting home ice would just make it that much more special," McLaughlin said. "Dubuque is a good team all around, and it's hard to win at their rink. So it'd be really nice to have home-ice advantage."

Carlson wouldn't share that sentiment. Wouldn't even go near it, which isn't surprising.

"Did you really just ask me that question?" he said. "You know the answer. We play Friday, and that's it. We haven't discussed (the playoffs). Just play Friday. That's the game we're focused on."

Cedar Rapids (35-20-3, 73 points) won a pair of games last weekend at Youngstown to put themselves into position to clinch home ice. The Riders have won three in a row and six of seven.

Indiana has wrapped up first place in the Eastern Conference, though fourth is up for grabs between Muskegon, Chicago, Green Bay and Team USA. All four playoff spots in the Western Conference have been spoken for: Waterloo, Omaha, Sioux City and Sioux Falls, in that order.

Waterloo and Indy are tied in the chase for the Anderson Cup (most regular-season standings points), so there is plenty left for the Black Hawks to play for this weekend. Forwards Corey Petrash and Mitch Maloney are injured and not expected to play for Cedar Rapids.

"As a team, we're playing really well right now," McLaughlin said. "We've got a couple of injuries we're dealing with, but as a team, we're not worried about that right now. We have a lot of depth and anyone can step in at anytime and do well."


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