Sunday, May 18, 2014

Game 4 recap: Headed back to Waterloo

One game. 60 minutes (at least) between the two best teams in the USHL with a Clark Cup championship on the line. It's somehow fitting that's how the 2013-14 USHL season will come to a conclusion.

That one game will be Tuesday night in Waterloo's Young Arena, as the Black Hawks thwarted the Indiana Ice's opportunity to win the title on home ice by a 7-2 score Saturday night.

Leading the best-of-5 series 2-1, the Ice had an opportunity to close things out at home, and looked like a team chasing a title in the first 20 minutes -- they completely carried the play and spent the evening buzzing the Waterloo net. But a quick push by Waterloo in the second period and a fortunate bounce in the third gave the Black Hawks an insurmountable lead, and eventually, a 7-2 victory in a game that was much closer than the final score.

Box score
Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier

The Ice's push in the first was impressive -- they were the first on to pucks, had a strong forecheck, and were able to turn the opening 20 minutes into a shooting gallery on Waterloo goaltender Cal Petersen. However, Petersen got into a groove early and was able to stop the first shot and often cover up the rebounds. The Ice took an early 1-0 lead when Josh Jacobs blasted a point shot past him into the top corner of the net, and scored a second goal when Mitch Hults popped free on the power play -- and Scott Conway found him all alone with a cross-ice pass for a one-timer goal. It was Hults' fourth goal of the playoffs, and third in as many games, all on the power play.

But that would mark the Ice's highlight reel. They only allowed two shots on Jason Pawloski, but unfortunately, one of them was a breakaway by Tyler Sheehy, who managed to get behind the Ice defense and receive a long stretch pass. He converted going in alone on Pawloski. That, at the time, tied the game 1-1, but was a key moment early, as it kept the Black Hawks in the game, and kept it a one-goal game going into the second.

As they did in Friday's Game 3, Waterloo came out with a big push at the start of the second period, including getting back-to-back power plays. This time, though, the Black Hawks were able to solve Pawloski -- Mark Sanford tied the game by posting up at the left side of the crease. Jake Horton was also at the top of the crease, and tipped Dane Cooper's point shot to Sanford, who converted for the goal 3:10 into the period. On the second of back-to-back power plays, Sanford again found himself free and tipped a shot from Liam Pecarero into the top of the net at 8:25 of the period to give Waterloo its first lead since the opening minute of Game 2's third period (and that Game 2 lead lasted only 59 seconds).

The Ice had opportunities, but Waterloo continued to control the pace of play in the second period. In the third, the Ice had a few chances -- Scott Conway had likely the best one, alone in the slot, but whizzed a shot just wide of the left post. Sam Kurker also was in position for multiple rebounds, but unable to convert.

The floodgates opened when Tim Lappin bounced a puck off Pawloski from behind the net that wrapped around the post and in at 6:39 of the period. That forced the Ice to spread things out -- allowing Waterloo to play its end-to-end game. Three minutes later, Brandon Montour ripped a slapshot through Pawloski to make it 5-2, and Pecarero greeted Hayden Stewart with a goal three minutes after that. Patrick Russell ended the scoring with an empty-netter that set the final at 7-2.

After putting several strong games in a row, the Ice were outplayed for two periods by a team their equal -- and things snowballed. After previous losses, the Ice made adjustments and came back with their best games of the postseason. Tuesday night in Waterloo will have to be their best.

  1. The special teams battle was a wash -- the Ice were 1-3 on the power play, Waterloo 1-2. Much like Friday night, each team got two power plays in the first two periods. The Ice's third-period PP came in the final four minutes with the team down four goals. But 5-on-5, Waterloo held a 5-1 advantage. The Ice PP is now 4-12 in the series. Waterloo is 2-10.
  2. Two key moments were the Sheehy goal in the opening period, and Sanford's tying goal in the second. When a team is as thoroughly outplayed as Waterloo was in the opening period, it's going to feel good to be down only a goal. The Black Hawks regrouped, and got a lot of jump in the second by getting a lot of traffic in the low slot -- areas where the Ice are often adept at clearing bodies, allowing Pawloski to see the puck, and then clear rebounds. 
  3. A significant number of the Ice's 38 shots came from the points -- the team's shot leaders were Ryan Mantha, Matt Roy and Austin Kosack, who had four each. 
  4. Jacob Pritchard was the one plus player for the Ice in the +/- chart. He started the game on a line with Brian Pinho and Sam Kurker. In the third period. Jeff Brown did a bit of line-switching and put Kurker with Denis Smirnov and Scott Conway. The one line that stayed intact was the trio of Tyler Pham-Joe Sullivan-Alex Talcott, which was the Ice's best line in Game 3, and was key in pushing the Ice's forecheck in Game 4.
  5. Pecararo had a three-point game for Waterloo (G, 2A). Twelve of the 18 Black Hawks skaters found the scoresheet.
  6. The Ice scored the first goal for the fourth straight game in the series. Sheehy's first-period goal was Waterloo's first opening-period goal in the four games so far. Waterloo has come back to take the lead in three of the four games so far. 
  7. Pawloski, who has been very good in the postseason, stopped 15 of 20 shots. Stewart stopped six of seven in relief duty in the third period. It's the first time Pawloski has allowed more than three goals in a game this playoff year. Petersen stopped 36 of 38. 
  8. Both of these teams have tremendous depth and very few weaknesses, so matchups can be key. Waterloo's fourth line did a significant amount of damage. Sanford and Lappin scored the Black Hawks' second, third and fourth goals -- the critical ones in the contest.
  9. Boston Bruins defenseman Torey Krug -- captain of the 2009 Clark Cup champion Ice -- was on hand to drop the first puck. Calgary Flames prospect (and current Providence College goaltender) Jon Gillies was also in attendance.
  10. Game 5 is at 8:05 p.m. Tuesday in Waterloo's Young Arena. 
  11. Lineup changes: Tyler Andrew and Jason Salvaggio were in the Ice lineup in place of Dwyer Tschantz and Aidan Muir. Andrew was making his first appearance in the series. For Waterloo, Austin Vieth returned to the lineup and Brandon Salerno played in his first postseason game, while Lawton Courtnall and Tyson McLellan were scratched. It was McLellan's first scratch of the playoffs. The two teams' defenses were the same from Game 3.
Start of game lineups/lines

Jason Salvaggio-Patrick Newell-Tyler Andrew
Tyler Pham-Joe Sullivan-Alex Talcott
Denis Smirnov-Scott Conway-Mitch Hults
Jacob Pritchard-Brian Pinho-Sam Kurker

Tim Shoup-Ryan Mantha
Austin Kosack-Josh Jacobs
Matt Roy-Mike Preston

Jason Pawloski
Hayden Stewart

Black Hawks
Liam Pecararo-Peter Krieger-Patrick Russell
Blake Winiecki-Tim Sheehy-Drew Melanson
John Wiitala-Jake Horton-Austin Fieth
Zach Sanford-Brandon Salerno-Tim Lappin

Hayden Shaw-Brandon Montour
Dane Cooper-Mark Friedman
Derek Pratt-Alec McCrea

Cal Petersen
B: Cam Johnson

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