WATERLOO — Defense was the name of the game Friday at Young Arena.
At the start, however, the Waterloo Black Hawks and Dubuque Fighting Saints staged a fireworks show.
After three goals were scored in the first six minutes, two by Waterloo, the Black Hawks held on for a 2-1 United States Hockey League victory over the Fighting Saints.
The win was huge as it matched a victory by Sioux Falls over Sioux City and kept the Black Hawks and Stampede tied for second in the USHL’s Western Conference.
Defenseman James Marooney began the scoring frenzy as he blasted a shot from the top of the left circle past Fighting Saints goalie Matthew Thiessen. The shot had enough mustered on it bend past Thiessen’s glove and wander to the back of the net.
Moments later, the Black Hawks made Thiessen second guess himself as Joey Cassetti redirected a shot from out front by Hank Sorensen. The Hawks were quickly up 2-0.
“My job is to set screens in front and wait for the shot to be made,” said Cassetti. “Hank got it through the defense with a great shot and I just got a stick on it. We didn’t really think two goals would be enough and we went after more, but the game just kind of slowed down.”
The Fighting Saints, who have already locked up the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, made the game a little more interesting one minute after Cassetti’s mark, as Ty Jackson snuck the puck through Hawks’ netminder, Evan Fear’s mitt, cutting the lead to 2-1.
“We kind of hung our heads a little after that one,” said Cassetti. “But we are a good team and we shook it off and played our game. We played well in all phases of the game after that and shut them down.”
The Black Hawks relied heavily on their defense from that point as both sides made life difficult in the offensive zone.
“It was a hard game but a good game,” Hawks coach P.K. O’Handley said. “There were times we just over committed and got a little over zealous. I think both teams just locked it down after the first period. There was a lot of room out there, but no one could get the puck in the net. I think we need to take care of the puck better and manage the puck better.”
The Hawks managed the defensive end very well after the first six minutes as they collapsed down on all the Saints opportunities.
With 1:20 remaining, the Saints called a time out to pull their goalie for the man advantage. The Hawks defense got stronger not allowing the Saints many shots with the extra man.
“That is part of the road map we follow every game,” defenseman Mason Palmer said. “As a unit it is up to us to limit their shots and don’t let up even for a second. We are a third period team, and we seem to play defensively so much better.
“We break the game down to a smaller level and our goal is to win the third. We know the offense can score and we have total confidence in our goalie.”
Fear stood strong between the pipes snuffing out 26 shots.
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With the win, the Black Hawks captured the Cowbell Cup, but have a more important victory to go for as they travel to Dubuque for the season finale Saturday.
“I think there is a lot more pressure on us to win that one,” Cassetti said. “They have nothing else to play for and we need the win to stay in second place which is very important.”
“I have always said that we take these one game at a time,” added O’Handley. “Nothing has changed.”
Waterloo 2, Dubuque 1
SCORE BY PERIODS
Dubuque 1 0 0—1
Waterloo 2 0 0—2
FIRST PERIOD—1. Waterloo, James Marooney (unassisted) 3:37, 2. Waterloo, Joey Cassetti (Hank Sorensen, Wyatt Schingoethe) 4:52pp, 3. Dubuque, Ty Jackson (Dylan Jackson, Riese Gaber) 5:51. Penalties—Willie Knierim, Dub. (tripping) 4:27, Mason Palmer, Wat. (tripping) 11:11,Matt Cameron, Wat. (slashing) 15:30.
SECOND PERIOD—No scoring. Penalties—Griffin Ness, Wat. (holding) 4:25, Knierim, Dub. (tripping) 9:46, Aidan Fulp, Dub. (tripping) 15:54, Patrick Smyth, Dub. (roughing) 15:54, Sorensen, Wat. (roughing) 15:54.
THIRD PERIOD—. Penalties—Knierim, Dub. (unsportsmanlike conduct) :39, Palmer, Wat. (roughing) :39.
SHOTS ON GOAL
Dubuque 7 9 11—27
Waterloo 10 10 8—28
Goaltenders—Dubuque, Matthew Thiessen (26 saves), Waterloo, Evan Fear (26 saves).
Officials—Referee’s—Brian Hankes. Linesmen—Bryan Gorcoff and Mitchell Hunt.