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CEDAR RAPIDS — The good news for Zac Robbins is he’s his team’s leading goal scorer as everyone in the United States Hockey League takes a break for the holidays.
The not-so-good news is that his team has the league’s worst record, one that dipped some more with a 3-2 loss Saturday night to Green Bay at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena.
It has been quite an unbelievable turn of events for the second-year center. He was part of a club last season that won the Anderson Cup for most regular-season standings points.
Now he’s part of a team that is an unsightly 3-21-2. Cedar Rapids doesn’t play again until Dec. 28, at home against Fargo.
“It’s good sometimes if you’re struggling to step away from hockey a little bit,” Robbins said. “Maybe focus on getting our minds reorganized. But what Coach is saying is to remain positive, and, after our break, get back here and refocus. Get back to working. We need to find a way to win, and that’s our biggest problem. Right now, we’re not playing a full 60 minutes, we’re not playing hard enough. That’s probably the main thing right now that our team is struggling with.”
Robbins had a power-play goal late in the second period to get his team on the scoreboard. That was his team-high seventh and ended an ugly 0-for-34 streak with the man advantage for C.R.
Liam Walsh followed with a goal 21 seconds later to bring the RoughRiders within 3-2, but they couldn’t tie it.
“It’s obviously different,” Robbins said. “But I’ve learned so much more this year than I did last year. Last year, we didn’t go through adversity that much. Right now, that’s exactly what we’re going through. I know our team will eventually get out of this, and, after that, all the guys will be saying what a great experience this was because you don’t really learn that much when all you do is win. Once we find a way to win games, that’ll be greater than winning (all the time) itself.”
Cedar Rapids lost its first 18 games of the season, won three in a row but now has a five-game losing streak. The team played this weekend without defensemen Jakub Sirota and Bence Stipsicz and forward Robert Arrak, all of whom are representing their respective countries at international tournaments.
That really shouldn’t be that much of an excuse, though. Green Bay was without leading scorer Casey Mittelstadt, who is a potential first-round NHL draft pick.
“I thought we did some good things,” said Riders Coach Mark Carlson. “I didn’t think we were as good as we needed to be for 60 minutes to win.”
Green Bay outshot Cedar Rapids by a 26-20 margin. Zack Larocque played well in relief of starter Drrew DeRidder in net but gave up the third Gamblers goal and took the loss.
Carlson was asked if he felt it was a good time for his boys to separate for a week and clear their heads.
“I think, no matter what, it’s always good for guys to get home and see their families,” he said. “But I don’t know if anyone needs their mind cleared. There is a big, big price to play to win games in the league. It’s that simple.”
“We have a bunch of young guys on this team, and some of them have to get acclimated,” Robbins said. “It feels like guys are coming in left and right. We just need to play a team game, and that’s what our main focus is going to be.”
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