WATERLOO — One break. One bounce. One misfortune.
When two outstanding teams give it everything they have, the difference between a win and a loss is miniscule.
Saturday, the Waterloo Black Hawks got the big break.
Evan Dougherty’s goal with 4 minutes, 20 seconds left helped lift the Black Hawks to a 2-0 victory over Fargo in an all-out Game 1 battle in the United States Hockey League’s Western Conference finals at Young Arena.
“Hard-fought battle out there for 60 minutes,” Waterloo head coach P.K. O’Handley said. “Two teams that were laying it all out there and we were fortunate to win, capitalized on an opportunity.”
In a game filled with 22 penalties and where the two teams combined to go 0-for-16 on the power play, Force goalie Strauss Mann had one miscue.
Waterloo’s Joey Cassetti chipped a puck behind the Fargo net, where Mann went back to play it. The puck squirted away from Mann and a Force defender and right to Dougherty who was stationed in slot. Mann stumbled and fell to the ice trying to scramble back to the front of the net, leaving Dougherty a wide-open shot. He whiffed on his first crack at an open net, but had time for a second shot and didn’t miss.
“The goalie came out to play it and fumbled a little bit,” said Dougherty. “It came right to me in the slot so I kind of got lucky, but we will take the bounces we get.”
Cassetti scored into an empty net with 36 seconds left for the final score.
“It was a heck of a hockey game,” Force head coach Cary Eades said. “A great battle. A lot of intensity. A lot of emotion. A lot of heart and courage showed on both sides. They created a turnover and buried it.
“Playoff games that are that type come down to a big play. We made a big play in the third period the other night against Omaha and got the win. Waterloo made it tonight.”
Both teams were frustrated at times in what was a tightly whistled game, but after players were sent to the box, both were able to put that frustration aside as Waterloo killed nine penalties and Fargo seven.
“Outstanding penalty kills and outstanding goaltending during the penalty kills,” Eades said.
“I thought our team did an outstanding job of sticking with it,” added O’Handley. “We were on the penalty kill a little too much but we were able to withstand it.”
Both Mann, and Waterloo goalie Jared Moe, who posted his second shutout of the playoffs and has now won four straight in the postseason, were stellar. Mann turned aside 28 shots, while Moe finished with 26 saves.
“Two really good hockey teams,” O’Handley said. “The tempo of the game was unbelievable and I don’t see that changing.”
Game Two is set for tonight at 5:05 p.m.
Waterloo 2, Fargo 0
SCORE BY PERIODS
Fargo 0 0 0 — 0
Waterloo 0 0 2 — 2
FIRST PERIOD — No scoring. Penalties — Evan Dougherty, Wat (charging), 1:03, AJ Drobot, Far (tripping), 5:06, Jackson Cates, Wat (interference), 5:29, Evan Bell, Far (interference), 10:40, Dougherty, Wat (unsportsmanlike conduct), 13:15, Jacob Schmidt-Svejstrup, Far (unsportsmanlike conduct), 13:15, Hunter Lellig, Wat (slashing), 13:15, Jonathan McDonald, Far (tripping), 18:20.
SECOND PERIOD — No scoring. Penalties — Bartek Bison, Far (tripping), 3:02, Hank Sorensen, Wat (high sticking), 4:41, Ty Farmer, Far (slashing), 8:23, Mason Palmer, Wat (unsportsmanlike conduct), 8:23, Grant Hebert, Far (unsportsmanlike conduct), 8:23, Ben Finkelstein, Wat (tripping), 9:25, Hank Sorensen, Wat (roughing), 11:36, McDonald, Far (holding), 13:44, Palmer, Wat (checking from behind), 16:41.
THIRD PERIOD — 1. Waterloo, Dougherty (unassisted), 15:40, 2. Waterloo, Joey Cassetti (Finkelstein), 19:24, en. Penalties — Calvin Pokorny, Far (unsportsmanlike conduct), :20, Sorensen, Wat (roughing), :20, Griffin Loughran, Far (unsportsmanlike conduct), :57, Dougherty, Wat (roughing), 6:23, Joey Cassetti, Wat (charging), 11:46.
SHOTS ON GOAL
Fargo 12 7 7 — 26
Waterloo 12 10 8 — 30
Goalies — Fargo, Strauss Mann (28 saves). Waterloo, Jared Moe (26 saves). Referees — Eric Krasnichuk and Nolan Bloyer. Linesmen — Logan Wetekamp and Jeff Pacocha.