Diamonds and Ice

RoughRiders’ Donovan, Seidel named to all-USHL team

Defenseman Matt Donovan and forward Mike Seidel have been named to the all-United States Hockey League team, it was announced Sunday.

Donovan was named to the first team, one of only five RoughRiders to earn that honor. The others were goalies Bobby Goepfert (2001-02) and Alex Stalock (2005-06), defenseman Derek Peltier (2003-04) and forward Jacob Cepis (2006-07).

Donovan scored 19 goals and had 51 points this season, both highs for league defensemen and franchise single-season records. The University of Denver commitment and New York Islanders NHL draft pick had 31 goals and 81 points in his two-year RoughRiders career.

Seidel, a Minnesota-Duluth signee, played three seasons for the Riders, setting the franchise’s career records for goals (60), assists (103) and points (163). He had 29 goals and 44 assists this season.

Chicago’s Andrew Miller was named USHL Player of the Year and Forward of the Year. Chicago’s John Moore was named USHL Defenseman of the Year and Fargo’s Mike Lee Goaltender of the Year. Louis Leblanc of Omaha was Rookie of the Year.

Other award winners included Fargo’s Dean Blais (Coach of the Year), Green Bay’s Jon Cooper (General Manager of the Year), Lincoln’s Jim Pflug (Executive of the Year), Omaha’s Jeff Teglia (Scholar-Athlete Award), Chicago’s Mike Walsh (Curt Hammer Award for most gentlemanly player on and off the ice). Fargo was named Organization of the Year.

The rest of the USHL First Team included goalie Brett Bennett (Indiana) and forwards Mike Cichy (Indiana) and Craig Smith (Waterloo). The second team included goalie Kevin Murdock (Lincoln), defensemen David Makowski (Green Bay) and Jake Newton (Lincoln) and forwards Stephane DaCosta (Sioux City) and Andy Taranto (Fargo).

Joining Lee and Leblanc on the All-Rookie Team were defensemen Torey Krug (Indiana) and Brett Kostolansky (Chicago) and forwards David Eddy (Sioux Falls),  Stanislav Galiev (Indiana) and Alex Chiasson (Des Moines).

All of the USHL awards were decided by a vote of league coaches.

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!

Quad City Flames hitting the road. Is he USHL next there?

Well, it’s official. The parent Calgary Flames have released the Quad City Flames from their obligation to provide Calgary an American Hockey League franchise for their players to develop in. The team is officially don after this season, which ends in April.

It’s bewildering how an area that went to nuts over the Quad City Mallards for all those years could simply ignore a higher quality product. Guys in the AHL have already played in the NHL  and are just a phone call from going back there. It’s wonderful hockey.

So now what with the Quad Cities. There has been some talk that it could get a team and join the United States Hockey League. It’s a geographic fit, for sure, though it’s hard to imagine the public down there thinking junior hockey is all the rage after failing to support an AHL team.

At any rate, here’s a story from the Quad City Times on the future of hockey in the area:

Leaders say Q-C hockey has future after Flames

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By Craig DeVrieze | Thursday, March 12, 2009 7:42 PM CDT | (


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The hockey doctor senses a pulse.

“I don’t think hockey is dead in the Quad-Cities,” said Howard Cornfield, architect of the Quad-City Mallards’ mad success from 1997 through the middle portion of this decade. “It’s injured right now.”

The American Hockey League’s Quad-City Flames will limp out of town in April, a victim of too few fans and too much expense.

Hockey attendance is at an all-time low in the Quad-Cities this season, at 2,967 a game, or barely a third of the fans who packed the building when Cornfield’s Mallards averaged 8,646 in 1997-1998.

Cornfield and others think those decade-old numbers still are proof that hockey should resurface at the i wireless Center, perhaps even in the form of another American Hockey League team.

When that should happen is subject to debate.

Scott Mullen, executive director of the iwC, wants hockey back in his building at the earliest possible juncture.

“I am a hockey guy and I want hockey in the Quad-Cities,” Mullen said Thursday from southern California, where he was on arena business. “That is one of our top priorities. We worked hard to get the AHL to come. We want hockey in the building.”

In fact, the Quad-City Civic Center Authority  invested more than $700,000 in bringing the rink and the arena up to AHL standards when Quad-Cities Sports Ventures and Calgary announced plans to bring the AHL here in the spring of 2007.

The arena’s lease with QCSV calls for the Q-C Flames ownership group to repay that money if it didn’t complete the five-year term of the lease. So lead QCSV partner Dennis Voss is anxious to find a new tenant willing to assume those final three years.

But who?

Voss said potential expansion of the International Hockey League, which formed from the remnants of the United Hockey League QCSV left behind two years ago, could include the Quad-Cities.

IHL president Paul Pickard said that’s something his league would welcome — “if there’s ownership interest.”

Cornfield, who has contacts throughout the minor league hockey world, said he knows of a couple groups looking to get into the hockey business.

But the IHL, currently a six-team league with a couple of teams in distress, isn’t an option he would recommend, he said.

Geographically, he said the AHL makes the most sense, but it might be too late at this juncture to attract the interest of any NHL teams looking for a place to move an affiliate.

NHL Edmonton has a dormant franchise. Still unannounced is which AHL franchise will move to Austin, Texas, next year as a Dallas Stars affiliate.

Another option that might be in the works is to bring a high-level junior team from the United States Hockey League.

Mullen said that might not be the best option, after having exposed Q-C fans to hockey a level shy of the NHL.

“I can’t say it would be ruled out, but a building our size would seek a higher level professional team,” he said.

Perhaps the best option, Cornfield said, is to allow the patient some time to rehabilitate.

“It is not a good time for hockey in our town right now,” he said.  “I think similar to other markets that have gone away and come back to life, this market probably has to heal for a year or two and you’ll certainly see some interest.

“The building is too good. The fan base is too good.”

Cornfield said if an AHL team decided now to play here in 2010-2011, it could spend all of next winter re-preparing the market.

“Hopefully, they open an office in September and start working their tails off selling hockey here,” he said.

The best marketing tool Cornfield and others can think of?


At the height of their popularity, the Mallards won three Colonial Cup championships and they reached the finals six out of seven seasons.

The Flames failed to make the AHL playoffs last year and are battling for the final spot in the West Division field right now.

“I don’t know that the league matters much,” Voss said of the potential next Q-C hockey crew, “as long its a first or second-place team.”




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.

RoughRiders’ sale dead

Have heard from sources that the proposed sale of the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders to Canadian businessman Gary Gelinas is dead.

Gelinas, who owns a junior team in British Columbia and runs a minor-pro team in New Mexico, had come to an agreement to purchase the local USHL club from current owners Mercantile Capital Partners of Chicago. But before the deal could officially be worked out, OK had to be given by the United States Hockey League.

That did not happen, sources said, with the league questioning Gelinas’ financial viability to run the franchise successfully.

Now it’s back to square one yet again for the RoughRiders. This is the third potential sale that has not gone through. A Chicago businessman was in line to purchase the team last year, but that deal fell through, as did a potential deal with the owners of the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers.

What this means for the future of the RoughRiders in Cedar Rapids is anyone’s guess, though that future certainly has gotten much more cloudy. The city and Mercantile Capital Partners worked out an extension of an expired lease last year that keeps the team in the City of Five Seasons through next season.

But after that, who knows now?

As soon as we get hold of RR owner Steven Edelson or Gelinas, we’ll let you know what they have to say.

RoughRiders sale in hands of USHL

Steven Edelson, one of the owners of the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders, was in town for Tuesday night’s home game against Tri-City and told The Gazette the deal to sell the team to a Canadian businessman has to be OKed by the United States Hockey League before it can proceed further.

Gary Gelinas, who owns a junior team in British Columbia and runs a Central Hockey League team in New Mexico, has agreed to purchase the club from Mercantile Capital Partners of Chicago. MCP has had the club for sale since the middle of last season.

“We’ve negotiated with a perspective owner,” Edelson said. “And it goes (from there) to the USHL … I need to get word from them before I move any further.”

It was expected that a vote on the sale of the team would happen at the USHL Prospects/All-Star Game in Sioux Falls, S.D., last week, but Gelinas was unable to attend the game and preceding league meeting.

“We have a new commissioner (Ellis Prince), and he wants to do a really good job,” Edelson said. “With the history of what happened before I bought it, he wants to make sure that whoever buys it is (an acceptable owner). We turned this around in one season, so he wants to make sure the people that get (the franchise) are the right people for the league.”

Edelson reiterated his unhappiness with the city over failure for the two sides to come to a long-term lease agreement to remain in the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena. Mercantile Capital Partners has long said the lease prevents it from turning a profit. The sides agreed to extend through next season an expired lease negotiated six years ago by original RoughRiders owner Butch Johnson.

It is believed Gelinas wants to speak with the city’s Five Seasons Facilities Commission about a long-term lease before officially signing off on any deal. Five Seasons Facilities Commission president Patrick DePalma said in an e-mail last week that he had no comment on whether the city and Gelinas have spoken.

“I think we all want (the franchise) to stay here in Cedar Rapids,” Edelson said. “The problem is with this team, no matter what you do here because of this terrible lease, you can only make a little but you can always lose a lot.”

U.S. National Team could rejoin USHL next season

Word is the United States Hockey League is considering adding USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program for next season. The last time the U-18 team played in the league was the 2000-01 season. It is playing a combined collegiate, international, North American Hockey League schedule this season.

A once frosty relationship between the USNTDP and USHL has apparently warmed in the last couple of years. The groups recruit many of the same kids, which has led to past animosity.  The USHL sees adding the USNTDP as an opportunity to get its players more heavily scouted by the NHL and Division I colleges.

First-year USHL Commissioner Ellis “Skip” Prince told the Lincoln Journal-Star last week that his eventual goal is an 18-team league. It now has 12 teams.

“There could be at least one team as early as next year,” Prince told the Journal-Star. “Obviously, I can’t talk about it at this time, but we have a board of directors meeting at the all-star game where that will be discussed. There are several teams and groups that have applied for participation as early as next year.”

Here’s USA Hockey’s Web site:

By the way, Michigan State player Corey Tropp has decided not to join the USHL’s Sioux Falls Stampede and will return to East Lansing. He and MSU teammate Andrew Conboy were suspended for the rest of the season after an ugly on-ice incident in which Michigan’s Steve Kampfer (a former USHLer, like Tropp and Conboy) was injured.

Tropp swung his stick at Kampfer as he lay on the ice, hitting him in the neck.

Here’s video:


Former Rider Abdelkader called up to NHL

Former Cedar Rapids RoughRiders forward Justin Abdelkader was recalled Friday to the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings. Abdelkader had 14 goals and 13 assists in 44 games this season for Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League. Detroit plays Washington on Saturday.

The Red Wings have injuries and sickness running through their forward corp right now, which precipitated Abdelkader’s recall. You might remember he made his NHL debut late last season on a PTO (Pro Contract Tryout) before signing a three-year deal with Detroit this past offseason.

Abdelkader led Michigan State to the NCAA Division I title in the 2006-07 season. He had 27 goals and 52 points in 60 games for Cedar Rapids in its 2004-05 Clark Cup championship season.

Here’s a link to the official press release:



Got video of Saturday’s brawl?

Go ahead and send it to me here and we’ll post it. That was an ugly situation initiated by Lincoln and the wrong reason to fight. Yet most of the fans in attendance loved it.

RoughRiders defenseman Doug Leaverton came out the worst for wear, with significant cuts above and below his left eye that required a couple of stitches.

I was told after the game that Leaverton had been hit in the eye by a high stick, but Leaverton denied that.

“Nope, a fist,” Leaverton said.

Then it was pointed out to Leaverton that chicks do indeed love scars, which brought a smile to the nicked-up defenseman’s face.

Anyway, if you’ve got any video (phone or whatever) and you want to share, send it to me at here or at