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Game Preview: Raptors vs. Des Moines

Your Raptors are back in action this weekend with a doubleheader against our fierce in-state rivals, the Iowa Demon Hawks.

In our last meeting, the Demon Hawks barely edged us, winning 7-6 in a shootout on the second-to-last shot of the game. One thing is certain this weekend: Emotions will be running high, and the action should be spectacular.

Since our first meeting, the Demon Hawks have played three more games, winning two. All three games were played against the Muskegon Risers. Both home games took place at the Alliant Energy Powerhouse (the Demon Hawks' home field for the '22/'23 MASL2 season), and both were statement games: a convincing 11-6 victory on December 10, and a 17-4 blowout on December 29. In between, they dropped an 8-7 overtime loss in Muskegon.

The Demon Hawks feature a dominant offense combined with solid goaltending and a tenacious defense. Forward Ricardo Diegues leads all MASL2 scorers in both total points (18) and points per game (4.5). Diegues also tops the MASL2 in goals, with 9, and is second in total assists (9), behind teammate Thiago Frietas (10). Indeed, Demon Hawks players dominate the major statistical categories on offense. The top four total point scorers are Demon Hawks (Diegues, Frietas, Bruno Henrique, and Diego Pantuza); Diegues and Pantuza lead the league in goals scored; Diegues and Henrique follow Frietas in total assists. And if that's not enough, forward Maicon de Abreu is second in points per game (4) despite not cracking the top five in any other category.

It's safe to say that the Demon Hawks have a blistering attack, and that's before noting that they currently own the league's only shorthanded goal (MF Jorge Gonzalez).

They're also tough defensively. Veteran goaltender Rainer Hauss, who spent significant time with the MASL1 Florida Tropics and Cedar Rapids Rampage, is third in goals-against average (GAA), at 5.41. He's supported by the league leader in blocked shots, midfielder Maycon Franca, and three of five leaders in that category are Demon Hawks (the other two are Pantuza and former Cedar Rapids Rampage standout Joshio Sandoval).

Part of the Demon Hawks' statistical dominance is a function of playing time: They've played the second-most games in the league so far (only the Risers have played more). But it's fair to say they're going be tough opponents. "We know they're going to be a challenge," said Raptors head coach Curt Lewis, "but we've been working hard in practice, and we're ready to sweep them."

Your Raptors come into the game ready to unleash their signature balanced attack. Despite playing one less game than the Demon Hawks, your Raptors have the league's fifth-highest total scorer and third-leading goal scorer (Jonah Dancer; 6 goals and 7 total points). We're merciless on the power play, with defender Pat Kelly leading the league in power play goals with two; Ayo Adebayo is the league's second leading PPG scorer (1). In the net, GK Jesus "Chuy" Ortiz posts a solid 5.68 GAA, just behind Hauss and fourth in the league overall. He's backstopped by Kelly, long known for his stellar defense, and forward Ricky Orozco -- who is tied with Dancer for the team lead in total points -- is rapidly establishing a reputation as a standout defensive player as well.

More impressive than their league-leading numbers, however, is the Raptors' charitable nature. An outstanding nine Raptors have posted assists so far this season, and of our nine goal scorers, only defenseman David Lapan-Islas (1) has not also tallied an assist (forward Jez Rodriguez has recorded an assist without an accompanying goal). Forward Ronaldo Rojas leads all Raptors in assists with three, but he's being chased by no less than five players with two apiece: Forwards / midfielders Adebayo, Orozco, and Jake Johnson; forward Bobby Hurwitz; and defender / midfielder Kelly.

The Raptors have also made significant roster additions ahead of this weekend's tilts. Two skilled veterans joined the team this week: defenseman Paco Gonzalez and GK Brett Petricek. Longtime Cedar Rapids soccer fans will remember Petricek as a standout keeper for the Rampage.

Photo credit: Rebecca F. Miller / the Cedar Rapids Gazette. Used by permission.

In addition, Petricek played at the MASL1 level with Kansas City and the Florida Tropics. He's also a winning college soccer coach, having guided the Flyers of Lewis University (Romeoville, IL) to a 11-5-3 record in their 2022 season.

Gonzalez is an indoor standout, having won a championship with the Chicago Mustangs of the Premier Arena Soccer League (PASL). He's a tenacious defender with a slick shot, and should see lots of action this weekend. He has also competed internationally.

This weekend's games kick off at 6:30 Saturday night. It's our Huntington's Disease awareness night, and we ask that fans wear royal blue in support. On Sunday, we honor local veterans and active duty service members, teachers, and bankers. Kickoff is at 2pm. As always, tickets are available online and at the Alliant Energy Powerhouse box office. Tickets start at just $7.50, and they're going fast!

We'll see you at the Powerhouse! Get ready to #RunWithTheRaptors.

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