CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – One step up, and two steps back.
Sorry to throw his beloved Bruce Springsteen at Cedar Rapids RoughRiders Coach Mark Carlson after such a tough 7-4 loss Saturday night to the Waterloo Black Hawks before 3,642 fans at The Stable. But that Boss song kind of feels like it fits after the opening weekend following a short Christmas break.
The Riders played a wonderful overall game Friday night in a win at Des Moines, perhaps their best of the USHL season. But they followed it up by getting into a shootout, if you will, against quite probably the league's most skilled team.
That's not good advice.
Seven guys scored goals for Waterloo (18-10-0, 34 points) as it moved closer to cinching the Cowbell Cup for season-series winner between these I-380 rivals. The Hawks have won all three contests thus far against Cedar Rapids (12-14-3, 27 points).
"We really didn't dominate the house in front our net," said defenseman Clark Kuster. "We just need to start playing better together, and we'll start winning a lot."
Waterloo took control with a three-goal second period that established it a 4-2 lead. Two of the goals were on the power play, where the Black Hawks are so dangerous because of a deep forward group.
Liam Pecararo scored on a rebound at 4:40 of the second to put his club on top, 2-1. Defenseman Clark Kuster tied it for Cedar Rapids at 8:35 with his seventh goal of the season, but Pijus Rulevicius scored even strength two minutes later and Vince Hinostroza scored on the man advantage late in the period.
Kyle Schmidt, Ryan Papa and Austin Vieth had third-period goals for Waterloo. Dylan Steman and Justin Wade scored for Cedar Rapids.
Waterloo pumped 44 shots at Riders goalie Steve Michalek, who didn't have his best game, getting beat five-hole (between the legs) at least three times.
The first period ended in a 1-1 tie, thanks to Zach Stepan's late goal for Waterloo. Cedar Rapids had an initial two-on-one break that turned bad when Phil Marinaccio's pass was deflected away, with Stepan picking up the puck, rushing left wing and beating Michalek between the pads with 18.5 seconds left.
Truthfully, it seemed a fair verdict considering the Black Hawks held a 18-9 shots on goal edge after one. They also hit two goal posts.
Cedar Rapids opened the scoring on Judd Peterson's power-play goal at the 11:46 mark. Waterloo goaltender Eamon McAdam ill-advisedly try to clear a loose puck up the middle of the ice, with the disc intercepted near the blue line by Andrew Poturalski.
His shot was stopped by a flailing McAdam, but the puck went straight to Peterson at the side of the net.
"We did a lot of good things in the first period," Carlson said. "It's a simple game, you know?"
The RoughRiders played without goalie Chris Birdsall, who is representing the United States at the Under-17 World Challenge tournament in Canada. In his absence, the Riders have added affiliate list goalie Drew Vogler to the active roster.
The 16-year-old has been playing Midget hockey for the Cleveland Barons. The Riders also have selected forwards Dylan Gareau and David Goodwin as assistant captains.
Davey Middleton and Ian Brady are the team's co-captains.