Evenly Matched East Teams Hit the Ice Friday

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By James Steward

CEDAR RAPIDS — If they weren’t wearing different uniforms, the only way you’d be able to tell the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders and Green Bay Gamblers apart is hair.

The Riders are the blond guys.

“It is really similar, all the up way and down through the lineups,” Riders forward Stu Wilson said.

“I wouldn’t say exactly a mirror image, but, yeah, we do have a little bit of similar teams,” forward Michael Parks added. “I think we’re both very good skating teams, can skate really well from the (defensemen) all the way up to all the forwards. Both our teams pass the puck really well and play well-rounded games.”

They played seven times in the USHL’s regular season, and Green Bay won four times. Every game was decided by one or two goals. Two of them went to a shootout.

They finished first and second in points: the RoughRiders winning the Anderson Cup with a 42-12-6 record and 90 points to Green Bay’s 41-15-4 and 86. Cedar Rapids had a goal differential of plus-61 to Green Bay’s plus-58.

They were the two least-penalized teams in the USHL, winning 17 road games each. Cedar Rapids is 27-2-3 at home, playoffs included, to Green Bay’s 26-4-2.

Cedar Rapids had 12 players score 20 or more points in the regular season. Green Bay had 11.

In other words, hold on, because this best-of-five Eastern Conference playoff series should be an absolute doozy. Games 1 and 2 are Friday and Saturday at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena before things shift next weekend to Wisconsin.

“It’s two even teams, two teams with lots of depth and good goaltending,” RoughRiders Coach Mark Carlson said. “Two teams that are going to go out there and make some plays and play with some pace.”

This is what happens in the playoffs, he said.

“No different than it would be for any other series,” Carlson said. “We’ve just got to go out there and play our game. Have real good execution, focus and concentration.”

The teams rely on speed and skill, preferring and up-and-down, fast-paced style. Green Bay Coach Eric Rud was an assistant for Carlson from 2002 to 2004, so there’s a lot of familiarity as well.

Parks said to expect close games.

“Playoff hockey you’re not really going to see any blowouts or anything,” he said. “We had some really great games during the regular season, and I don’t see any reason why the playoffs would be any different.”

Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@sourcemedia.net


On the ice
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINAL
(Best-of-five series)
Friday — Green Bay at RoughRiders, 7:05 p.m.
Saturday — Green Bay at RoughRiders, 7:05 p.m.
May 6 — RoughRiders at Green Bay, 7:05 p.m.
May 8 — RoughRiders at Green Bay, 3:05 p.m., if necessary
May 10 — Green Bay at RoughRiders, 7:05 p.m., if necessary

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