By Jason Shaner
With Saturday night’s victory over the defending Clark Cup Champion Sioux City Musketeers the Waterloo Black Hawks have sent out the call to the entire USHL that they are a contender and are a force to be reckoned with. Saturday’s blowout win marked the 10th consecutive victory for Waterloo, establishing a new franchise record.
The wins have been impressive as well, both at home and on the road. Thanksgiving week, Waterloo took a home and away set with the Eastern Division leading, and hated rival, Cedar Rapids RoughRiders. The same weekend, the Black Hawks topped the Western Division and overall USHL leading Lincoln Stars. Sandwiched in between all the wins include a 2-1 road victory over the River City Lancers, a venue they hadn’t been victorious at since 1997. During their win streak, they have outscored their opponents by an astonishing 48-20 count.
Now the USHL and in particular, the RoughRiders, are aware that the Black Hawks are for real and are primed to take over first place in the East. Waterloo is currently 14-8-1 for 29 points and 2nd place in the East while being tied for 3rd overall in the league with Sioux Falls and River City. But, the interesting part is, Waterloo has won more games than Cedar Rapids and the ‘Riders have played two more games. With the rest of the Eastern Division looking weak, at least for now, it seems the Black Hawks and their rivals will make a stretch run to remember in midwest Iowa.
This weekends victories, #9 and #10 appeared to be vastly different while reaching the same points. Joe Pavelski saved the Black Hawks with a goal with 1:15 left in overtime to lead the team over the Tri-City Storm Friday. The Black Hawks allowed two early first period goals only to rally with a late two goal flurry in the middle session before Pavelski’s game winner. Jeff Jakaitis logged the victory while continuing to play his part in the two headed goaltending monster. It was not one of the Black Hawks best efforts this season, but champion caliber teams win these kinds of games, especially at home. Games like this are the difference between home ice advantage or being on the road.
In contrast, Saturday’s game the Black Hawks throttled the defending champion Musketeers. The Black Hawks scored early and often on the highly touted Sioux City goaltender, Jan Chovan. Quite possibly the highlight of the night was when Black Hawks sparkplug Jim Jensen dropped the gloves with the 6’7″ monster from Sioux City, Art Femenella. Jensen fared well considering he stands in at a mere 6’1″ and had a decided reach disadvantage. In the 6-1 victory, the six goals scored by Waterloo on Chovan, were by six different players marking the 2nd time in the winning streak this has happened. The other half of the goaltending monster, Jordan Parise kept pace with his partner in crime, Jakaitis, in continuing to be tough to beat in net.
Andrew Nelson had a successful return from injury scored a goal in each of the two games to go along with an assist. Linemate Ross Carlson tallied a goal of his own with an assist while Pavelski finished the weekend with two goals and an assist. Perhaps the biggest contributor on offense was first year winger Matt Fornataro. Fornataro finished the weekend with only one goal but four assists for five big points while prepping himself for New Hampshire next season.
The Black Hawks look to extend their record streak to 11 Friday night when they host the Des Moines Buccaneers. Saturday night Waterloo returns to River City in hopes of beating the Lancers again before finishing out the weekend with a Monday night date in Bensenville, Illinois with the Chicago Steel.