Black Hawks Preview: USHL Western Conference Finals
The Waterloo Black Hawks are gearing up for the 2014 United States Hockey League Western Conference Finals. The best-of-five games series kicks off Friday, April 25 here in Waterloo when the Sioux City Musketeers come to Young Arena.
Round One Completed:
The Waterloo Black Hawks advance to the Clark Cup Semifinals this weekend after recording the only sweep during first round play. Waterloo eliminated the Sioux Falls Stampede in three games, capped with a 7-2 victory last Thursday. It was the first time the Hawks have swept an opponent during a best-of-five playoff series since defeating the Chicago Steel during a 2008 semifinal set. Up next are the Sioux City Musketeers, who dispatched the Omaha Lancers, three-games-to-one. The Musketeers and Lancers were the only teams to skate into overtime during the quarterfinals, each winning one game played beyond 60 minutes. None of the matchups were settled by a margin greater than two goals.
Starting in the 70’s:
During the 1970’s, the Black Hawks and Musketeers met regularly in the playoffs for memorable games. The first postseason series between the clubs was in 1975, Sioux City’s third year in the USHL. As the league transitioned from senior to junior players later in the decade, the Hawks and Musketeers dominated the circuit, meeting for the championship in both 1978 and ’79; the Hawks claimed each of those titles. Waterloo won again during the opening round of the 1980 playoffs, the first year of all-junior rosters. Sioux City claimed the only other playoff duel against the Hawks in 1996; the ninth-place Musketeers made the field that year, because the financially troubled Fargo-Moorhead Bears had to cease operations at the conclusion of the regular season.
Forward Blake Winiecki and defenseman Brandon Montour are the co-leaders in USHL playoff scoring entering the second round. Each has nine points from four goals and five assists. The last time a Black Hawks player had nine points in one postseason series was during the first round in 2003 against the Des Moines Buccaneers. During that four-game set, Joe Pavelski had ten points, and Joel Hanson had nine.
During the first round series with Sioux Falls, the Black Hawks averaged 18.34 more shots on goal per game than they allowed to the Stampede. The differential ballooned from +10.67 per game throughout the 60 game regular season. Over the full schedule, Waterloo led the USHL with an average of 40.6 shots per contest. In six meetings, the Hawks outshot Sioux City by an average of 42.5 to 34.5, but the Musketeers put more shots on net against Waterloo than any other Western Conference team.
Brandon Montour had five points, and Tim Lappin scored two goals as the Hawks upended the Sioux Falls Stampede on the road in Game Three Thursday. Cal Petersen picked up his third win with 23 stops.