After Game 1 Loss, Must Win on Home Ice Awaits RoughRiders

By Jeff Johnson, SourceMedia Group


By James Steward

CEDAR RAPIDS — Forget all the cliches about it being do or die. Saturday night’s Game 2 is a must win.

Let’s just throw everything on the table. The Cedar Rapids RoughRiders are down a game to Green Bay in their best-of-five USHL Eastern Conference championship playoff series, with the third and fourth games on the road.

You figure it out from there.

“The people that have followed our team for 12 years know that nothing changes,” said Riders Coach Mark Carlson after Green Bay fired the first shot in this battle with a 3-2 victory before 2,478 fans Friday night at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena. “It’s day by day, game by game. The media can make whatever they want to about certain things. That’s their job, they’re free to do that, and we respect and appreciate that. We’ll show up and get ready to get after it tomorrow night.”

These were the top two teams in the league in the regular season, with virtually no statistic separating them by much. So you expected a series of tightly played games.

This one fit the mold. The difference was Nolan LaPorte’s two goals within a span of 3:26 in the first period.

“Hard fought both sides,” said Riders winger Stu Wilson. “As you could see, really evenly matched teams. Right up and down the lineup, we’re very similar. Everyone can skate. We didn’t come out on top tonight. We’ve just got to have a couple of improvement areas for tomorrow.”

Topping that list would seem to be creating more offensive chances. Green Bay didn’t allow the Riders to get much going up and down the ice, which was key.

Cedar Rapids pulled within a goal twice, including when Ryan McGrath punched a loose puck into the net with 3:55 left. But the Riders did not seriously threaten the rest of the way, with Green Bay holding the puck in the Riders’ zone much of the final minute and a half, not allowing goalie Brady Hjelle to get off the ice in favor of an extra attacker.

“We’ve just got to play with a lot more urgency,” said Riders winger Sam Warning. “Really just get the puck down low and go to work. We’ve got to play like it’s a playoff game.”

“Every team in the league can tell you we generate a lot of offense off the rush, with our transition game,” Wilson said. “Lately we’ve been working on getting it down low, maybe dumping it in and working them in their end. Kind of cycling and stuff like that, help and support each other. So kind of a combination of those two things (is important).”

Tanner Pond had the Riders’ other goal. Ludwig Karlsson’s goal with a minute left in the second turned out to be the game winner.

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