WATERLOO — The game within the game sometimes goes unnoticed.

Friday, Waterloo did a lot of little things right at critical points to pull out a 4-3 victory over Lincoln in United States Hockey League action at Young Arena.

Waterloo (14-9-1) scored a pair of power-play goals in the third period to break a 2-all tie and held off a late surge by the Stars to win for the second time in as many nights and third straight overall.

“We finished a little rough before the break, but that is three in a row, including that last game in Fargo,” said Solag Bakich, who had a goal and an assist. “We are playing well and the biggest thing is both have been against Western Conference foes.”

The power-play goals, the game-winner by Bakich with 11:48 left and Jack Drury’s 1:14 later were set up by offensive zone face-off wins.

“Face-offs are crucial on power plays, obviously,” Bakich siad. “That is what gives you possession. We won those big draws and we cashed in.”

“The power play was good, and I thought the urgency level was high,” added Black Hawks head coach P.K. O’Handley. “I thought when we gained a little traction there we were winning first puck touches and that has been better the last two games.”

Lincoln’s Dominick Mersch cut the Stars’ deficit to 4-3 with 2:57 left when he pushed home his own rebound, and Lincoln had a goal waived off with 2:23 left when it was ruled it was batted in by a glove, a call that was upheld by review.

With Lincoln’s net empty and the Stars with an extra attacker, Waterloo goalie Matej Tomek came up with a huge pad save with nine seconds left on a scramble in front of him. Tomek made 29 saves to earn his second win of the weekend.

“The guys are playing hard,” O’Handley said. “We are making mistakes at times, but we are playing hard. We need practice, that is for sure. But right now it is three in four (days), and this has been a good way to start the weekend.”

The Black Hawks took a 1-0 lead just 3:20 into the first when an outlet pass by Ian Malcolmson broke out newcomer Evan Dougherty on a 2-on-1 break.

Dougherty carried the puck down the far boards and at the last second flipped a cross-ice pass to Ethan Johnson, who slammed it home.

Dougherty came to Waterloo from Fargo on Dec. 26 in a trade that sent Calvin Pokorny to the Force.

“He has been great and just what we need,” O’Handley said. “He has been battling, creating some space out there and that creates time. We’re glad to have him.”

In the second period, Ben Copeland scored on a nice feed from Bakich to make it 2-1, but Lincoln answered again to tie the game.

It was one of numerous opportunities Waterloo created with hard work either moving the puck or winning pucks in corners.

“All we can control is our work ethic,” Bakich said. “And that goes for our play without the puck even moreso than with the puck.”

DEFENSE DEPTH — With injuries to defensemen James Marooney and Kyle Koopman, Waterloo added Canton, Mich., native Ethan Szmagaj to its roster. The 16-year old Szmagaj has been playing with the Michigan-based Little Ceasers U16 program where he had three goals and eight assists in seven games.

“He was good and that is a hard deal to come in from midget,” O’Handley said.

Waterloo is playing Szmagaj off its affiliate list for the next couple of weeks. He can play up to 10 games before he has to be officially added to the roster or sent back to his midget team.

Waterloo 4, Lincoln 3

SCORE BY PERIODS

Lincoln 1 1 1 — 3

Waterloo 1 1 2 — 4

FIRST PERIOD — 1. Waterloo, Ethan Johnson (Evan Dougherty, Ian Malcolmson), 3:20, 2. Lincoln, Wyatt Aamodt (Collin Peters, Dominick Mersch), 4:57. Penalties — Hunter Lellig, Wat (interference), 5:18, Mersch, Lin (cross checking), 5:36, Jack Drury, Wat (roughing), 10:21, Cole Krygier , Lin (roughing), 10:21, Garrett Wait, Wat (slashing), 19:23.

SECOND PERIOD — 3. Waterloo, Ben Copeland (Solag Bakich, Jackson Cates), 12:03, 4. Lincoln, Devlin McCabe (Gustaf Westlund, Eero Teravainen), 15:07, pp. Penalties — Copeland, Wat (slashing), 14:02.

THIRD PERIOD — 5. Waterloo, Bakich (Copeland, Sam Huff), 8:12, pp, 6. Waterloo, Jack Drury (Wait, Hank Sorensen), 9:16, pp, 7. Lincoln, Mersch (Aamodt), 17:03. Penalties — Westlund, Lin (elbowing), 6:26, Westlund, Lin (holding), 8:55, Copeland, Wat (high sticking), 10:52, Evan Dougherty, Wat (roughing), 13:57, Zach Dubinsky, Lin (holding), 13:57.

SHOTS ON GOAL

Lincoln 9 13 10 — 32

Waterloo 7 12 12 — 31

Goalies — Lincoln, Tomas Vomacka (27 saves). Waterloo, Matej Tomek (28 saves). Referee — JR Strager, Scitt McClement. Linesmen — Neil Frederickson, Nick Klinkhammer.

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Sports Reporter

Sports reporter for The Courier

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