By Kory Catlett
The Cedar Rapids RoughRiders have made their way into the second round of the Clark Cup playoffs. This is the second consecutive year they have reached the second round and they are looking to move ahead even further. The Lincoln Stars will have a little something to say about that first though. The best of five series begins Friday, April 11 at the Ice-Box in Lincoln. The Riders will have to overcome the league’s best regular season team if they want to advance to the finals this year.
The Riders look as though they can’t match up with the Stars on paper but as they say on ESPN “That’s why we play the games.” Cedar Rapids wasn’t supposed to match up well with its first round opponent, Topeka, either. But the Riders will never be outworked so they match up well with just about anyone in the league.
Cedar Rapids is led by their regular season point leader Chase Watson (19g, 33a-52). He should be a factor if he can get free and get the puck. Watson had only 2 points in the opening round series against Topeka. Mike Manley leads the Riders in playoffs points with 4. Tyler Howells, Troy Brummett, and Kevin Brooks all have 3 points in 4 games versus Topeka. Two USHL playoff veterans in Matt Olinger (2 game winning goals in round 1) and Chris Snavely ( 2 assists in round 1) will have to continue to make good decisions and put points up as well.
Ultimately this series will come down to defense and goaltending. Can Cedar Rapids keep Lincoln’s high scoring offense off the scoreboard? Lincoln is led by the USHL Player of the Year- Ryan Potulny and Dan Irmen. Both had 7 points in their opening round sweep of Tri-City. Equally as dangerous is David Backes, he had 69 points in the regular season in 57 games. As hot as Lincoln’s offense is Cedar Rapids has as hot of a goaltender in Joe Fallon. Fallon gave up only 8 goals in the first round while posting a 1.797 goals against average, and a .944 save percentage. Fallon will have to be equally, if not more impressive in this round though.
Cedar Rapids will have to work harder than they did in the first round if they want to get by Lincoln and into the finals. The Riders have advanced farther every year they have been in the league. Maybe that’s a good omen. To accomplish that this year they will have to keep their composure and stay out of the penalty box. Lincoln’s powerplay is too skilled to give them any unnecessary advantages. If the Riders can do that and scoring on their own powerplay this should make for a very interesting series.