WATERLOO — It would be easy to nitpick here and there at things the Waterloo Black Hawks could’ve done better in its first four games of the United States Hockey League season.
But if you ask head coach P.K. O’Handley to access the start made by the defending Anderson Cup champions the positives far out-weighed any negatives.
Waterloo scored at least one standing point in each of its first four games — two at the USHL Fall Classic in Pittsburgh, and then games at Des Moines and Central Illinois last weekend.
“I’m pleased with a lot of things,” O’Handley said as his team prepares for its home opener at Young Arena Saturday against Green Bay. “The enthusiasm and effort are there. They work extremely hard. That has been on display the first four games.
“That is a really good starting point.”
O’Handley says he saw huge gains from just those two games in Pittsburgh to games three and four last week, highlighted by Matej Blumel’s hat trick against Central Illinois in a 5-1 victory.
“We were cleaner. Just our organization in play,” he said. “I thought our routes were better. I thought our effort in our routes was better and more strategic.
“There were some details in the game that we were better at ... sticks on the ice, quicker passes, quicker movement, all things that have to be exponentially better, but you saw improvement.”
Waterloo’s ability to pull out at least a point in an overtime loss to Central Illinois in Pittsburgh, a point in a shootout loss to Des Moines were valuable indicators of a team that will hard from minute one to minute 60.
In fact, the Black Hawks have outscored opponents, 9-2, in the third period.
“I could go through our lineup and say our intention has been good and one way or another each has contributed to the success,” O’Handley said.
O’Handley admits veteran players like Matt Koopman, Mason Palmer and Blumel and others have been what the Black Hawks need them to be ... their best players night in, night out.
With Green Bay, which is off to a 1-4 start and has been outscored 21-14 in its five games, coming to town O’Handley said his biggest concern moving forward is his team keeps its foot on the gas.
“It’s exciting (to be at home),” O’Handley said. “Obviously, you go into coach mode a little and are concerned you are satisfied. We have to contain ourselves and keep putting one foot in front of the other.”