You just knew it was going to be that kind of game. From all the scouts in attendance, to the turned up music in the Stable. You knew the RoughRiders had come to play. Cedar Rapids was 0-3 against Sioux Falls this year but you could see it when PJ Atherton blew out of the tunnel followed by Steve Burgess. They had the energy but could they keep up with the high-powered Sioux Falls offensive attack? The answer was an astounding yes. The RoughRiders scored just 26 seconds into the game on a pretty rebound goal from Adam Olsen and never looked back, although if they would have they would have seen the Stampede nipping at their heels.
The first period was all Cedar Rapids. Olsen’s goal set the tempo and Teddy O’Leary, who is heading to the University of Denver, pumped it up even more with a wicked slapper that seemed to just brush a Sioux Falls defensemen and whistle past Kellen Briggs off the post for a 2-0 RoughRider lead only 5:12 into the game. Coach Mark Carlson said it was probably the hardest slap shot he has ever seen from O’Leary.
But Sioux Falls wouldn’t go away. They killed off a 5 on 3 midway through the first, and you could start to see the momentum turn. Just 22 seconds into the second period Sioux Falls cracked the scoreboard on Eric Przepiorka’s 41st goal of the season. That goal ties him with teammate Thomas Vanek for the league lead. Sioux Falls looked like they were playing with a bit of a chip on their shoulders. They were tired of Cedar Rapids physical style of play in the first period and so they started taking penalties one of which cost them a goal. While on the power play SteveBurgess took a shot from the point and Chase Watson redirected it through Briggs to put the Riders back up 2 goals. Sioux Falls did mange to tally another goal late in the second period to close the gap to 3-2.
The third started out like the second ended. The Rider playing physical and Sioux Falls taking penalties. Cedar Rapids could not capitalize on any of the powerplays and at one time wasted over one minute in their own zone. That’s when things got interesting. Alex Foster took exception to a PJ Atherton check, so he gave PJ a cheap shot from behind, grabbed Atherton’s helmet and ripped it off at center ice. That’s where Foster should have stopped. Once Atherton got his head clear from his jersey, he pretty much mopped up the ice with Foster. The linesmen had to actually pry Atherton off of Foster to keep him from repeatedly slamming Foster into the ice. Foster was given a instigating penalty, a roughing penalty and a game ejection for the cheap shot. Only a few minutes later the Rider’s Nate Meyers took an elbow to the face from Jake Wilkens well after the whistle and Meyers went to the box, Wilkens went to the bench and the Stampede’s Cody Blanshan was also ejected.
The last minute of play was one of the most exciting at the Stable this season. The RoughRiders Joe Gasparini took a holding penalty with about 1:30 left in the game. Gasparini is the younger brother of Stampede coach Tony Gasparini. The Stampede called time-out, pulled Briggs in favor of the extra attacker and went to work with a 6on 4 advantage. Riders’ goaltender Bobby Goepfert was peppered with shot after shot but none found the back of the net. The Roughriders could not clear the puck if their playoff lives depended on it. With 2 seconds left PJ Atherton tackled a Sioux Falls player to the right of Goepfert but no one could hear the whistle because of the crowd noise. The Riders emptied the bench and mobbed Goepfert but the referee put two seconds back on the clock despite the Stampede’s Thomas Vanek following him all over the ice saying it should be 5 seconds. The Riders won the draw and move 3 points ahead of idle Green Bay in the Eastern Division lead.