WHEN WILL IT END?...The reigning Anderson Cup champions have certainly fallen on hard times. At the quarter pole of the season, the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders have lost 15 consecutive games. They have gone to overtime twice this season—once, on opening night against the Dubuque Fighting Saints, and a second time against the Sioux City Musketeers, in which the Riders fell in a shootout.
HOLDENER THAT THOUGHT...There’s a new Fighting Saint in town, and his name is Makai Holdener. The Swiss forward has played at the professional ranks over in his native country to fairly good success. He has shown the ability to score at a point-per-game pace at the junior hockey level at age 19, having scored 19 points in 18 games with the Malmö Redhawks of the SuperElit league, the top Swedish junior hockey league.
KEEP THE LEAD...The plus side for Cedar Rapids is that they have played with a lead on several occasions lately. Twice, the Riders had a lead over the Muskegon Lumberjacks, the second-best team in the Eastern Conference. They also held a lead against Bloomington late in the second period, and a multi-goal cushion against the Chicago Steel. None of those leads held.
A LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS...Cedar Rapids’ leading scorer, UConn commit Zac Robbins, has seven points. However, that isn’t even the Riders’ best player as of late. Rookie forward Jason Polin has led the way for Cedar Rapids with four goals in his last five games. It took Polin 11 games to get his first one, but lately, he can’t stop. During this streak, the Western Michigan commit is shooting a healthy 40%.
VELI VELURE...One of the best offensive defensemen in the USHL continues to emerge on the Dubuque Fighting Saints. Veli-Matti Tiuraniemi has been lauded for his hockey sense from the beginning, but the results, such as points in five of his last eight games, and two multi-point performances in that span, are beginning to roll in. The Finnish D-man is tied for the fourth-most points among defensemen in the league.
A SPLIT SERIES...Last season, the series between the Dubuque Fighting Saints and the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders was one of the most even ones in the entire USHL. The quirk of the series is that neither team had much home success. Both teams took three of four games in the opposition’s barn, with the Fighting Saints only taking a 10-2 win on home ice on April 1, and the Riders coming through with a 2-1 win at the Stable on March 18.
POROUS DEFENSE...Many signs point to Cedar Rapids’ lack of success this season. Look no further than the most goals allowed in the league (72), the league’s worst penalty kill, second-most shots against (35.8). They have only ever led a game after one period of play four times, and have led after two just twice. The Riders have been outscored 37-9 (-28) on the road so far this season.
NEVER BEEN BETTER...The Dubuque Fighting Saints are the only team to own both special teams’ success rates in the top three. If the field is spread to the top five, the Fargo Force and Des Moines Buccaneers join the Fighting Saints in that conversation as having both power play and penalty kill fall in that range.