Playing three games in a row in the USHL is always a tough order, especially if you have to travel from Topeka, Kansas to Waterloo Iowa overnight only to play the US National Under 18 Development squad a few short hours after returning home. The Black Hawks showed obvious signs of that three game stretch when they took the ice against Team USA, who also had played three games in three nights. The Nationals however, only had to travel from Cedar Rapids and got a good night’s rest.
Team USA got out of the gate quickly getting goals by David Booth and Timmy Wallace 4:33 and 6:33 into the game. Booth’s goal came right in front of the Waterloo net where he was all alone and wristed the shot past Waterloo goalie Jeff Jakaitis. Waterloo looked a bit weary early on but managed to knot the game up with two quick goals midway through the opening period. Ross Carlson scored as he was coming into the offensive zone through a line change. Team USA cleared the puck out and Carlson intercepted the pass and came in uncontested to slap the puck past Timothy Roth. 41 seconds later Aaron Johnson tied the game off a scrum towards the side of the US Nationals net. Carlson tallied his first of three assists on the night. The game didn’t stay tied for very long unfortunately as Brett Sterling received a perfect pass as he was streaking towards Jakaitis and he put it home giving the Nationals the lead once again at 3-2. Jakaitis and the Black Hawks penalty kill were instrumental in keeping the score where it was while two men down late in the opening period. A number of good saves by Jakaitis and good defensive positioning kept the Hawks in the game.
Team USA broke away in the second period with goals by Ryan Kesler and Mark Schwamberger early in the period. Schwamberger’s goal ended Jakaitis’s night as he skated around two Black Hawks defenders and lifted the shot over Jakaitis shoulder for the goal. Steve Witkowski took the reigns for the rest of the night. Nate Raduns greeted Witkowski with a goal at the 12:43 point of the period to balloon the Nationals lead to 6-2. Late in the period, while 2 men up, the Hawks cut the lead to three when Greg Poupard took a nice one time feed from Andy Nelson at the faceoff slots and he rifled it past Roth.
Waterloo got to within two when streaking Chris Margott scored his fourth goal of the weekend only 12 seconds into the final period. Carlson and Nelson got the assists on the play. Things were looking up for Waterloo as they were looking strong offensively, enough so that the Nationals had to call timeout to recollect themselves. Patrick O’Sullivan scored the final goal of the night 6:10 into the period when a Black Hawk turnover allowed him to skate in towards Witkowski from the side and O’Sullivan got him to bite on the fake and backhanded into the net setting the final count of 7-4.
Waterloo fell to 20-35-2 on the year and Team USA finished their USHL season 7-5-1. The Nationals only played each USHL team once this season. The Black Hawks return to Young Arena Friday against the Rochester Mustangs. Waterloo is 1-4 against the Mustangs this season and this will be the final matchup of the year. Waterloo will play at playoff bound Chicago Saturday night.