RoughRiders Topple Team USA, 4-1

By Jeff Johnson, Reporter

RoughRiders Gerald Mayhew, (20), Nick Saracino, (26), and other teammates, celebrate as John Gilmour makes a second Riders goal, bringing the score to 2-0, in the first period of their game against Team USA, at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Sunday, April 1, 2012. (Nikole Hanna/The Gazette/KCRG)

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By James Steward

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — The heck with you, Kirk Ferentz.

You’ve heard people repeat ad nauseam the Iowa football coach’s mantra for when a player gets injured. It’s next man in, next man in, next man in.

But what if you don’t have any more men left to put in? It’s just about gotten to that point for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders.

They found a way to skate past USA Hockey‘s U17 team Sunday afternoon, 4-1, before 2,098 fans at The Stable, capping a grueling stretch of late regular-season hockey that saw them play six games in 10 days in four cities. The great disappearing team, if you will, slogs on, seemingly losing guys every day.

“We were kind of short today, but we found a way to come up big,” said Riders center Nick Saracino.
Second-year defenseman Greg Amlong broke his collarbone in Saturday night’s win over Des Moines, joining forwards Tanner Pond (medical condition) and Jack Rowe (shoulder) on the season-ending shelf. Forward Andrew Oglevie had to be helped off the ice after the second period Sunday with a shoulder injury that may or may not be serious.

Forward Dennis Kravchenko wasn’t at the rink because he was sick. To top everything off, defenseman Preston Hodge and forward Austin Ortega received game misconducts during a third-period line brawl, of all things, which carry automatic one-game suspensions by the USHL.

You want to know who the heck will be available to dress for the Riders’ one game this weekend at Des Moines.

“It’s been the same old story for us all year,” defenseman John Gilmour said. “We’ve just got to keep grinding through and staying positive. It’ll work out for us, as long as we keep working hard.”

But you wonder how it’s going to continue to work out for a club that has dealt with injuries non-stop since preseason. This is the third year in a row a key defenseman is lost for the playoffs (Andy Simpson last season and Mac Bennett two seasons ago).

That’s out and out absurd.

“We’re really trying to focus on the controllables,” Saracino said. “That’s something that you can’t really control.”

“Keep grinding,” said Riders Coach Mark Carlson. “We’ll find a way.”

Riley Bourbonnais pounced on a loose puck in front to give Cedar Rapids (25-20-12, 62 points) a 1-0 lead 6:38 in. Gilmour scored on the power play less than three minutes later, and Gerald Mayhew and Stu Wilson brought it home with man-advantage goals in the third.

Matt McNeely was very solid in a 25-save goaltending effort. The win clinched fifth place in the USHL’s Eastern Conference for the RoughRiders with three regular-season games remaining.

Cedar Rapids will play either Youngstown or Dubuque in a best-of-three first-round playoff series in a couple of weeks.

“The schedule has been extremely challenging, and our guys have responded well to it,” Carlson said. “I give them full marks for that.”

“We knew we could secure fifth place tonight,” Gilmour said. ”Sixth game in two weekends, we figured we had to give it all we had.”

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