WATERLOO—To reach the top of the mountain, you must be at your best when others are closing in behind you.
The Waterloo Black Hawks are 10-0-3-1 over the past 14 games and have been playing their best hockey down the stretch, closing in on a top seed in the Western Conference with two games remaining.
Waterlooo secured a key 4-1 victory over the Sioux Falls Saturday night at Young Arena to maintain a one point lead over Omaha for first in the conference. The Black Hawks remain one point back of Team USA in the Anderson Cup race.
“I think right now we are still climbing to the top of the mountain,” Waterloo goalie Matej Tomek said. “We have not peaked yet. We just need to keep playing our way and keep finding success.”
Saturday night’s game certainly had a playoff feel.
“You saw two playoff teams go at it tonight and you got to see a very hard fought game,” Black Hawks coach P.K. O’Handley said. “You could not ask for much more than what you saw tonight. We played the right way and we have to keep it going, one game at a time.”
The Black Hawks (36-14-6-2) kept things going against the Stampede (32-17-8) after defeating them Friday night.
Waterloo took advantage of a five-on-three power play late in the first period with Ben Copeland picking up a dump-off from Ben Finkelstein and firing a shot against the grain at the 16:15 mark.
The Black Hawks turned up the pressure to start the second frame as James Marooney notched his second goal of the season.
Moments later the Stampede received their second power play opportunity of the game and made a serious charge at Tomek. The Black Hawks’ goalie snared a blast from Kevin Conley, that popped free from his glove. He reached out and brought in the air born offering saving the score.
With several Stampede players insisting on a goal being scored, the officials congregated in the box and eventually ruled no goal.
“I felt the puck hit my glove and knew it came out,” Tomek said. “I looked behind me and found it and grabbed it and knew that it did not go in. I had no doubt about what the referees would see and I knew it was not a goal.”
With momentum still on the Black Hawks’ bench, Garrett Wait extended the advantage to 3-0.
“Our power play has been working pretty good and we have had a couple good schemes with it,” said O’Handley. “Knock on wood, we have the players that can run it and play it well. We have also been doing a good job with our penalty kill. We have been putting one foot in front of the other and just getting better with that.”
The Stampede did find the net with three minutes left in the second period to close the gap to 3-1 on the power play, but were unable to get any closer.
Waterloo 4, Sioux Falls 1
SCORE BY PERIODS
Sioux Falls 0 1 0 — 1
Waterloo 1 2 1 — 4
FIRST PERIOD — 1. Waterloo, Ben Copeland (Jack Drury, Ben Finkelstein), 16:15. Penalties — Hunter Lellig, Wat (slashing), 3:24, Adam Dawe, SF (slashing), 15:06, Kevin Conley, SF (high sticking), 15:19, Colin Swoyer, SF (slashing), 19:28.
SECOND PERIOD — 2. Waterloo, James Marooney (Joey Cassetti, Griffin Ness), 4:13, 3. Waterloo, Garrett Wait (Drury, Finkelstein), 9:18, pp, 4. Sioux Falls, Conley (Swoyer, Nolan Walker), 16:50, pp. Penalties — Finkelstein, Wat (slashing), 4:31, AJ Villella, SF (slashing), 8:40, Michael Ferrandino, Wat (holding), 14:58, Villella, SF (slashing), 17:12.
THIRD PERIOD — 5. Waterloo, Solag Bakich (Copeland), 10:32. Penalties — Mason Palmer, Wat (holding), 3:08, Finkelstein, Wat (tripping), 18:06.
SHOTS ON GOAL
Sioux Falls 10 11 10 — 31
Waterloo 7 19 7 — 33
Goalies — Mikhail Berdin, SF (32 shots, 28 saves). Jaxon Stauber (1 shot, 1 save). Waterloo, Matej Tomek (30 saves).
Power plays: Sioux Falls 1-for-5, Waterloo, 2 for 5. Referees — Jim White and Ian Jendro. Linesmen — Rocco Stachowiak, Chase Wilkinson.