RoughRiders Beat Muskegon in Game 1, 4-1

By Jeff Johnson, Reporter

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By James Steward

The effort was there throughout. Having full energy and timing and synchronization took a little while for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders last night.

Ten days between games will do that to a hockey club.

“I thought we were in it from the start,” said captain Jayson Megna after the Riders won Game 1 of their second-round USHL playoff series against Muskegon, 4-1, before 1,734 fans at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena. “I just think it took awhile to get our legs going. The second and third periods, I thought we had a ton more jump.”

A win’s a win in the postseason, and Cedar Rapids will take this one. It’s got to be comforting for the Riders to know they can play better, too.

The Anderson Cup champs spotted their underdog opponent the first goal but rebounded with the final four to take momentum into Friday night’s Game 2 here.

“It’s human nature, when you have a layoff like that and have everyone talking about it, to forget to move your feet a little bit,” said RoughRiders Coach Mark Carlson, whose club had a first-round playoff bye. “I thought we were way better in the second and third periods, for sure.”

The game’s pivotal moment was provided by Ryan McGrath. He scored off a 2-on-1 rush with teammate Cason Hohmann with 37.6 seconds left in the first period to tie things at 1-1.

Muskegon, which finished 36 points behind Cedar Rapids in the regular season, got a power-play goal from Brendan Woods at the 18:31 mark of the first to draw first blood. The L-Jacks lead lasted all of 51 seconds.

“Scoring a goal like that was huge, especially at the end of the period like that,” said McGrath, who took a pretty crossing pass from Hohmann. “Going into the second period tied 1-1, we just had to keep it going.”

They did. Megna certainly won the first round of the Battle of the Megnas against younger brother Jaycob, scoring late in the second period and early in the third.

His second-period goal came when he threw a backhander to the right of the net that deflected off Jaycob Megna’s stick and past Muskegon goaltender Joel Vienneau.

“Yep, off my brother’s stick, unfortunately,” Jayson said. “I’ll have to thank him for that one.”

The long layoff didn’t affect Riders goalie Brady Hjelle at all. He had 20 saves, including a pair of absolute beauties in the dying seconds of the second period when he stacked his pads while down and apparently out on a play and stoned a Muskegon player twice at the side of the goal.

Stu Wilson scored on the power play with 5:49 left in the third for the final margin.

“It was real good teamwork,” Carlson said. “Hjell’s was good, the guys were able to score some goals. It was a good victory against a good team.”

Second-year defenseman Andy Simpson did not play in Wednesday night’s game. Carlson would not say why, but it is believed to be illness related. His status for the rest of the series is unknown.

Here’s a link to the game boxscore:

http://ushl.stats.pointstreak.com/boxscore.html?gameid=1577288

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