CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Corey Petrash is Mark Carlson's type of player. The Cedar Rapids RoughRiders head coach/general manager loves guys who can skate and play feisty. The first-year RoughRiders forward fits that description.
"He plays with a lot of tenacity, a lot of grit," Carlson said. "He's got good speed, he's hard on the puck. He does a lot of things we want to do as a team ... There's a lot of upside there. It's real good having him here."
Petrash can't tell you how good it is to be here – finally.
The East St. Paul, Manitoba resident initially had issues getting into the United States to join the Riders. He and his father got to the border to bring Petrash to Cedar Rapids for fall training camp, only to be told to go back home. They weren't being allowed to cross.
"Just didn't have the right papers, I guess," Petrash said. "I don't know what it was. Just running into the wrong guy or something like that. He was just stubborn, having a bad day or something. He didn't (seem to) realize what was going on. Not sure what it was. He just wouldn't let me over."
Canadian players are given specific visas to come play in the States. The RoughRiders have used the same visas for the last 10 years with very few problems. This time was different, for whatever reason. Petrash said an Iowa senator (he wasn't sure if it was Tom Harkin or Chuck Grassley) even had to get involved on his behalf. Two weeks later, he drove back to the border, assuming everything was finally OK.
"The second time, I had the same papers, but I was just told I would be cleared at the border," he said. "So I went inside and talked to the same ladies I had talked to the first time. One of them kind of pulled me aside and looked at me and said 'How is this any different than the first time?' I was like 'You've got to be kidding me?'"
The border guards relented and let Petrash cross.
"The first practice, I wasn't in as good a shape as all the rest of the guys," he said. "But it just took me a couple of practices to get back into it and get into shape."
The 17-year-old Bemidji State commit has been a factor, with three goals and four assists in his first 10 games. He also leads the RoughRiders with a plus-minus rating of plus-seven.
In a win last weekend over Omaha, he had a short-handed goal and a unanimous decision win in a mid-game scrap. Cedar Rapids plays this weekend at Lincoln and Omaha.
"Coach Carlson is a really good coach, and he's making me more of a two-way player," Petrash said. "Paying attention to the details and everything, being good on the backcheck. Not just focusing on the offensive zone, but focusing on the defensive and offensive zones."