WATERLOO — It was a showdown of two of the top teams in the United States Hockey League Saturday night at Young Arena, and the Waterloo Black Hawks made a statement.
Waterloo’s defense and goaltender Logan Stein shut down a potent Muskegon attack for a 3-1 victory over the Eastern Conference leaders.
“That was a great hockey game tonight,” Black Hawks coach P.K. O’Handley said. “Both teams executed well and the competitiveness was great between the two and I really liked that. This was playoff type hockey. It was one of our better performances of the year and we outworked our opponent and executed a little better than they did.”
The Black Hawks struck first as forward, Vladislav Firstov received a gift from the Lumberjacks 8:08 into the first period on a failed clearing attempt and hammered it home.
Moments before, the Black Hawks were flagged for a four-minute high-sticking penalty, but were able to ward off five Lumberjack shots.
Firstov’s goal, his 19th of the season, came during a four-on-four situation.
The Jacks had an opportunity to tie the game later as they swarmed Stein with three point-blank shots on goal. Stein turned them all away, then received the benefit of a friendly pipe.
An eventful second period began with the home team picking up a quick score.
Xander Lamppa intercepted a pass atop the key and found Solag Bakich skating down the right flank. Lamppa threw the perfect pass to Bakich’s stick, who proceeded to pad the lead with flip into the Lumberjacks’ nylon.
The Hawks’ fury began to wear on the Jacks as Owen Farris tried to take out his frustrations on the Hawks Matt Cameron.
Emil Ohrvall looked to put the game on ice moments later as he flipped a shot from the top of the circle toward Bussi, who lost sight of the rubber disc that sailed over his glove for a 3-0 Waterloo edge.
The Lumberjacks did answer that tally with a Ryan Savage goal three minutes later.
“We knew they were a great offensive team and we just wanted to keep the puck out of the net,” Black Hawks keeper Stein said. “We knew if we could just weather the storm coming at us we would be fine. We capitalized on our chances and the defense really helped keep the puck in front of me. It was a great game that we came out and played at our best.”
The Jacks had a golden opportunity with 13:25 remaining in the game as Bobby Lynch crashed the Hawks’ crease and put a shot on Stein’s jersey. Stein stiffened and stoned Lynch, keeping the two-goal lead.
“When he came at me I wanted to just hold my ground,” Stein said. “I stared him down then stared the puck down and made the stop. I saw him shoot at close range and knew I would stop it.
“I think tonight we played a great game against a great team and it was definitely a statement game for us.”
Waterloo 3, Muskegon 1
SCORE BY PERIODS
Muskegon 0 1 0 — 1
Waterloo 1 2 0 — 3
FIRST PERIOD — 1. Waterloo, Vladislav Firstov (unassisted) 11:52. Penalties—Brock Paul, Wat. (highsticking) 7:01, Egor Afanasyev, Musk. (holding) 10:00, Mason Palmer, Wat. (tripping) 10:46, Connor Caponi, Wat. (tripping) 17:47.
SECOND PERIOD — 2. Waterloo, Solag Bakich (Xander Lamppa) 2:08, 3. Waterloo, Emil Ohrvall (Ethan Szmagaj) 6:21pp, 4. Muskegon, Ryan Savage (Bobby Lynch, Colby Bukes) 9:43. Penalties—Owen Farris, Musk. (five minute fighting) 17:32, Matt Cameron, Wat. (five minute fighting) 17:32, Afanasyev, Musk. (hooking) 5:22, Palmer, Wat. (game misconduct) 9:24, Nolan Sullivan, Musk. (roughing) 9:24, Ohrvall, Wat. (roughing) 9:24, Danil Gushchin, Musk. (head contact) 10:39, Matt Staudacher, Musk. (interference) 15:28, Alex Yakovenko, Musk. (interference) 20:00.
THIRD PERIOD — No scoring. Penalties—James Marooney, Wat. (roughing) 19:51, Sullivan, Musk. (roughing) 19:51.
SHOTS ON GOAL
Muskegon 10 6 15 — 31
Waterloo 6 16 8 — 30
Goaltenders—Muskegon, Brandon Bussi (27 saves), Waterloo, Logan Stein (30 saves).
Officials—Referees, Matt Larson, Michael Menard. Linesmen—Tony Aronson, Nick Klinkhammer.