Diamonds and Ice


It’s RoughRiders against Indiana in playoffs

Give the Des Moines Buccaneers credit for trying. They led the Green Bay Gamblers three different times in their regular-season finale Sunday night in Wisconsin, but Green Bay rallied for a 6-4 win that gives it the USHL’s East Division championship and Anderson Cup for most regular-season points in the league.

What that means is that the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders will play the Indiana Ice in a best-of-5 first-round playoff series that begins Friday night at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena. Game 2 is Saturday night at The Stable.

Cedar Rapids finished the regular season with a 38-17-5 record and 81 points, one less than Green Bay and one more than Indiana. The RoughRiders went 4-2-1 against the Ice in the regular season, including a 6-0 spanking of the Ice last Friday night in Cedar Rapids.

Green Bay plays Waterloo in the other East Division first-round playoff series.

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RoughRiders clinch 2nd, have chance at title

It all comes down to Sunday night.

The Cedar Rapids RoughRiders went into Waterloo on Saturday night and pulled out a 4-1 victory. That clinches at least second place in the East Division for the Riders, who finish the regular season with a 38-17-5 record. Their 81 points are good for first place … right now.

Second place Green Bay is one point back and has one more regular-season game to go tonight at home against Des Moines. The Gamblers beat the East Division’s worst team on Saturday night, 4-1.

If Green Bay wins Sunday, it is East Division champ and Anderson Cup champ for most regular-season points in the league. If it loses in regulation, Cedar Rapids is champion of both. If Green Bay loses in overtime or a shootout, the teams finished tied, with Green Bay winning  the tiebreaker playoff wise. The teams split eight games this season, but one of Cedar Rapids’ victories was in a shootout. That gives Green Bay nine points in the season series to Cedar Rapids’ eight.

The RoughRiders’ victory Saturday night also clinched the Corridor Cup, given annually to the series winner between Cedar Rapids and Waterloo. Cedar Rapids has clinched home-ice advantage for the first round of the USHL playoffs, with Games 1 and 2 of a best-of-5 series likely being Friday and Saturday nights at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena.

Now who will the opponent be? If the RoughRiders win the division outright, they will face Waterloo. Wouldn’t that be fun? If they finish second or in a tie for first, the first-round opponent will be Indiana.

By the way, the RoughRiders ended the regular season with a four-game winning streak. The victories came over West Division champion Lincoln, Green Bay, Indiana and Waterloo.

It doesn’t get more impressive than that!



Record crowd sees RoughRiders blanked (with quotes)

Didn’t have the chance to talk to anyone for quotes in Sunday’s newspaper story on the RoughRiders-Waterloo game Saturday night, but here’s some player-coach thoughts for my blog.

It was a record crowd of 4,359 at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena, by the way. Sure, there were the usual pockets of Waterloo fans, but to see a full arena anytime is a great, great thing. This is a good hockey city, with the chance to be a very good one if the ownership of the team can ever get figured out.

Hello, Butch Johnson. Would you be interested in re-purchasing the club?Anyway, I digress …

Here are some of head coach Mark Carlson’s thoughts on last night’s 5-0 loss. Waterloo scored four times in the third period to put away a game that was anyone’s heading to the final 20 minutes. Eriah Hayes scored twice in the period, Craig Smith had a goal and so did Matt Johnson for the Black Hawks. Jordan Samuels-Thomas started the scoring late in the first period. Goaltender Parker Milner picked up his first USHL shutout with a 23-save effort.

“They scored the second goal (of the game) there in the third period, and, obviously that was a big one,” Carlson said. “Whoever got that second one, that was going to be a big one.  Smith had the wrist shot there to make ie 3-0, and we kind of had some problems from there.”

There were 11 penalties called in the first period, with nine power plays. Carlson was asked about that.

“It was the same for both teams, in terms of special teams. You’ve got to find a way. I just didn’t think we were as poised and controlled as we needed to be in power-play situations. That’s where you need execution.”

Cedar Rapids is 2-4-1 in its last seven games. There’s still a month to go in the United States Hockey League season, meaning these are the “dog days” you always hear about in baseball.

Riders defenseman Paul Phillips and goaltender Mike Johnson were asked about playing games this time of year.

“This is when you’ve really got to bear down,” Phillips said. “This is the toughest part of the season. We’re still fighting for a playoff spot, working toward that every single day. We go out every night fighting for a playoff spot. This is when you’ve really got to buckle down.”

“It is (the toughest part of the season),” Johnson said. “And the (opposing teams) just keep getting better, too. I think that’s why it’s tougher for everyone. The guys have been playing together for so long, so every team gets that much better. It’s not like one team gets better, they all do.  And you play everybody enough to where you kind of know all about each other.”

The good news Saturday was that the RoughRiders (31-13-5, 67 points) didn’t lose any ground to East Division leader Green Bay. The Gambers (68 points) lost at Des Moines, 3-2, believe it or not, going 0-2 on the weekend. Indiana, which comes to Cedar Rapids for a Tuesday night game, is one point in back of the RoughRiders and two back of Green Bay. Waterloo is suddenly seven points out of first place and six back of the Riders.

The Black Hawks took the lead in the race for the Corridor Cup, seven points to six. There’s one game remaining between the team, in April at Waterloo.