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Game 1 goes to Dubuque

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CEDAR RAPIDS To knock off the defending champs, the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders are going to have to be better than this.

Karson Kuhlman's goal 34 seconds into the third period broke a tie and lifted the Dubuque Fighting Saints past the Riders, 2-1, Friday night in Game 1 of their United States Hockey League playoff series.

Game 2 is back at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena on Saturday night. Whether they'll say it or not, the RoughRiders probably need to win to have a legit shot in this best-of-five series.

"They were just better than us tonight," said Cedar Rapids captain Nate Widman. "We've got to get back to the drawing board, work on what we can control. It's a nice thing that we play tomorrow, so we can stay back after it and hopefully have a better outcome."

Dylan Steman's wicked wrister from the top of the right faceoff circle gave the RoughRiders a 1-0 lead seven minutes in, but scoring chances after that came few and far between. Cedar Rapids couldn't get pucks deep in order to get a forecheck going, with Dubuque not allowing any odd-man rushes and continuously getting into the shooting lanes to prevent pucks from getting through to goaltender Kevin Reich.

"You've definitely got to get to the dirty areas," Steman said. "Not every shot is going to be a top-of-the-circle one. You've got to get to the dirty areas, put a lot of pucks on net. Then it can be a different game sometimes."

Dubuque dominated the second period, holding Cedar Rapids without a shot the first six minutes and getting the tying goal from pinching defenseman Phil Boje at the 3:06 mark. He slam dunked a puck to convert a great play by teammate Shane Kavanagh, who deked his way past Riders defenseman Mark Auk and threw a pretty goal-mouth feed.

Kuhlman got to the front of the net to smash home a slowly matriculating pass from behind the net by teammate Jacob Benson for the winner. Kuhlman is one of six Fighting Saints to play on last year's Clark Cup championship team.

"We've got to play a full 60 minutes, have everybody going," said RoughRiders Coach Mark Carlson.

"I don't know if we were playing tight, with the puck management issues we had," Steman said. "That part of the game, they just played better than us."

The RoughRiders had nine shots on goal the first period but only nine the rest of the way. Thanks to a 15-3 edge in the second period, Dubuque won the shots war in the game, 29-18.

Bottom line? This was a deserved outcome.

"I think we just need to be smart with the puck," Widman said. "Make sure we're making the plays that are there and not forcing things that aren't."

"In the playoffs, win or lose, you move on to the next game," Carlson said. "That's what we're doing. We've got to great ready to go tomorrow."

Carlson said forward Carlos Fornaris will not play the rest of the season because of a violation of team rules. Forward Mitch Maloney (injury) also sat out.

The first official video replay in Ice Arena history came in the second period. Dubuque's Max McHugh took a shot that beat Riders goalie Danny Tirone but clanked off the goal post.

Tirone fell backward on the puck just before it went into the net. Cameras were recently mounted directly atop each of the goals at the arena for use in just such an occasion.

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