CEDAR RAPIDS You keep waiting for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders to take off, just like they always seem to do. But we're heading toward the home stretch of the United States Hockey League season, and it hasn't happened, yet.
At this point, you've got to wonder if it will.
"There are no excuses whatsoever," said RoughRiders Coach Mark Carlson, after his team's 2-1 loss to Fargo Saturday night before 3,412 fans at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena. "This is a tough league, it's tough to win every night. Toughness defines those (winning and losing) streaks. Those things are defined by mental and physical toughness."
Cedar Rapids is 17-17-8 after this third consecutive defeat, with a road game Sundayday at Chicago. Particularly discouraging of late has been a lack of offense.
Defenseman John Gilmour's left point blast midway through the second period is the only goal the RoughRiders have scored in the last 10 periods. The problem, according to their coach, is too much reliance on trying to use their speed and skill to beat teams from the outside.
"We've got to get greasier," Carlson said. "Skill is way overrated in this game. There's no doubt about that. You've got to have the heart, the toughness, the desire, the competitive spirit to stick your nose in there. Be willing to get bloodied, if need be, to score a goal."
The RoughRiders were much better defensively than in a 7-0 shellacking Friday night at Omaha, limited Fargo's chances and getting a strong performance from goaltender Matt McNeely. But turnovers led to both Force goals, including Nate Arentz' winner late in the second period.
Fargo outshot Cedar Rapids by a 25-23 margin. The Riders went 0 for 6 on the power play, another important stat.
Pittsburgh Penguins draft pick Zane Gothberg picked up the win.
"I thought Gothberg was real good. You've certainly got to give him credit," Carlson said. "But you know the game is won on the inside. If you want to score, you've got to get to the inside. If you're not tough enough to get to the inside, you're probably not going to score."