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AMES — It might not have been as easy as 1-2-3, but it was definitely natural for Carter Herbst Saturday.

The senior forward from Denver stung Omaha with three straight goals for a natural hat trick as Waterloo cruised to a 5-1 victory and a spot in Sunday’s Midwest High School Hockey League tournament championship game against Cedar Rapids.

Herbst began his run with the Warriors clinging to a slim 2-0 lead early in the second period. By the time he was finished, Waterloo was in command.

“I guess I wasn’t too sure of a natural,” said Herbst. “I was just going out to help this team. We had gotten into a bad run two weeks ago and lost some games.

“We thought we were the best team out there, but after losing two we had a little sit-down. Coach just kind of reeled us in and told us to get our focus back and play our way of hockey. Now we have to go out and prove that we are one of the best, because there are too many good teams here.”

The Warriors swept the Lancers early in the season, but hadn’t seen them since.

After a scoreless first period, Ben Sinnott got Waterloo going with his league-record 55th goal, cashing in a nice feed from Kole Latusick during the power play.

Waterloo West senior Keegan Smith notched a tally two minutes later for a 2-0 lead, then Herbst went off.

His first net-ringer came at 9:22 with a man advantage as he skated through the defense and unleashed a shot that hit nothing but net for a 3-0 edge.

Thirty seconds later, Herbst struck again with an unassisted offering.

“I have always said you cannot do anything without the other guys on this team,” Herbst said. “Each guy plays such an important part of the success we have had and I am just part of it. I put that shot on goal because I knew Ben (Sinnott) was off to my left and if it didn’t go in he would get the rebound and score.”

Herbst made it 5-0 before the Lancers finally got a puck past Warriors goaltender Chase Pabst.

“I wasn’t super worried about that one,” said Herbst. “We knew we would come back out and shut them down.”

That they did as the 5-1 lead stood up. Pabst snuffed out 27 of the Lancers’ shots.

“You never get too comfortable back there, that is for sure,” Pabst said. “The goal did not bother me too much and in the locker room we talked about coming out 10 times harder to start the third and we did.

“We knew this would be a hard fought game and when they scored we just had to weather that storm and stay focused. We knew what we had to do and we did it. We know we have to come out hard every game and play our way.”

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The Warriors will go after their eighth MHSHL title today, which would give them more crowns than any other team in the league. To do that, they’ll have to harness one of the hottest teams in the league.

“Cedar Rapids is probably the hottest team here this week,” Warriors’ coach Brian Cook said. “They have won 19 games in a row and are having the best year they have ever had.

“They have a lot of good scorers and a top goalie and they beat us (4-1) a couple weeks ago at their place. You don’t know what kind of game we will get. It could be 2-1 or it could be 6-5. Whatever type of game, our guys have something to prove.”

Waterloo 5, Omaha 1

SCORE BY PERIODS

Omaha 0 1 0 — 1

Waterloo 0 5 0 — 5

FIRST PERIOD — No scoring. Penalties — Cole Bieber, Omaha (cross-checking) 4:30.

SECOND PERIOD — 1. Waterloo, Ben Sinnott (Kole Latusick), pp, 3:39, 2. Waterloo, Keegan Smith (Sinnott, Ethan Fox) 5:15, 3. Waterloo, Carter Herbst (Latusick, Sinnott), pp, 9:22, 4. Waterloo, Herbst (unassisted) 9:54, 5. Waterloo, Herbst (Nick Samuelson) 13:56, 6. Omaha, Brandon Waldow (Nick Novak) 16:59. Penalties—Carter Herbst, Wat. (tripping) 1:49, Jacob Eshelman (too many men) 2:55, Jacob Ferguson, Omaha (checking from behind, game misconduct) 8:15, Jack Johnson, Omaha (cross-checking) 9:54, Bieber, Omaha (roughing) 14:51.

THIRD PERIOD — No scoring. Penalty — Latusick, Wat. (slashing) 5:24.

SHOTS ON GOAL

Omaha 9 11 8 — 28

Waterloo 15 15 11 — 41

Goaltenders—Omaha, PJ Loucks (36 saves), Waterloo, Chase Pabst (27 saves).

Officials — Referee, Matthew Larson. Linesmen, Cody Clark, Nic Meyer.

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