The Waterloo Black Hawks have five of the 10 leading scorers in the USHL. They have two goaltenders that could easily be No. 1 starters on another team. They have one player that is considered the best 2013 draft-eligible player in American juniors right now.
They are also middling in the Western Conference, unable to emerge as one of the league’s premier teams.
“We have a tremendous amount of talent on our team,” says Cal Peterson, one of the team’s goaltenders. “Right now it’s trying to make a group of individuals into a team because, when you have that much talent, you sometimes have the tendency to” – he pauses a moment to check his words – “each individual player wants to have their own kind of success.”
“We’re underachieving a little bit,” admits Eamon McAdam, the other goaltender. “With me and Cal in net, we really shouldn’t have any letup in any way.”
Peterson and McAdam both permit that there is a competition in net that drives them to play better every night.
“There’s always been that friendly competition between us,” says Peterson, who played Triple A in Chicago. “We’ve been competing our whole lives against each other.”
“It’s a good working relationship,” says McAdam. “We work really well with each other on the ice, off the ice, kind of critiquing our own games, helping each other.”
Peterson is essentially playing in his own backyard; he grew up in Waterloo. McAdam comes from more than 1000 miles away in Philadelphia.
“I think I’m the first kid in Waterloo from the modern junior era to play [for the Black Hawks],” says Peterson of playing for his hometown team. “Some might find it pretty surprising [that there is] such a hockey following in the middle of Iowa, but the junior team has really helped with that.”
Unlike in Iowa, professional hockey has been around in Pennsylvania since 1967, when the Flyers and Penguins joined the NHL, but the game is still growing there. Penn State just joined the Division I ranks last year and Pitt and Penn do not have programs of their own.
“Hockey in Philly is growing,” says McAdam, who played Triple A across the river in New Jersey. “We’re putting a lot more guys in the USHL and college than we ever have before. It’s getting more competitive there, between there and Jersey.
“I think it will be a hockey hotbed one day.”
Unlike Peterson and McAdam, teammates Ian McCoshen and Taylor Cammarata played prep hockey at Shattuck-St. Mary’s, the school that produced Sidney Crosby, Zach Parise, and Jonathan Toews. Cammarata, a forward, is the leading scorer in the USHL; McCoshen, a defenseman, is considered by some scouts to be the best 2013 prospect in the league.
“Pretty much development,” said McCoshen of his reason to move, with his family, from Hudson, WI to Faribault, MN, where the school is located. “That’s what it’s all about for younger kids, developing your skills and just being surrounded by hockey all the time.”
“A lot of great players come out of there and I thought that would be the best place for me in the next step of my career,” said Cammarata, who calls Plymouth, MN home. “Staying in the dorm by yourself, living on your own for a year, was a really big change. It made the step to juniors a lot easier.”
Both players will be headed in different directions after their time in Iowa. McCoshen is headed east to Boston College while Cammarata will stay in the Midwest and play for the University of Minnesota.
“They asked me to come out on a visit and I had an open mind about it,” McCoshen said of Boston College and his willingness to play away from home. “I kind of saw all the other options for me just to see what it was like to be on the East Coast, just to see if I really liked it out there.
“I visited and the guys really took me in and were really supportive and said BC was the way to go.”
Cammarata’s heart remained in the Twin Cities.
“I’m from Minnesota and followed them my whole life,” he says. “Just all the NHL'ers that come out of there, it’s a good place to play.”
As for the netminders, Peterson will play against McCoshen as a member of the rival Notre Dame Fighting Irish and McAdam, like Cammarata, is returning home—only his program is a little less storied.
“I committed in October and went on a visit and fell in love with it,” Peterson says of Notre Dame. “I really loved the professionalism that surrounds the campus and I was really excited for them to have an interest in me.”
The Penn State program might not have the tradition of Minnesota, Boston College or even Notre Dame, but McAdam relishes the opportunity to represent his state as it takes its plunge into the world of college hockey.
“Going to Penn State is obviously a great honor,” he says earnestly. “I’m going to be one of the first guys to go [into that program].”
Peterson says that he may remain in juniors for another season, and it is possible that Cammarata, McCoshen and McAdam could do so, as well. They could be headed separate ways, however, and this could be their last chance to win a junior championship with such a loaded team.
“The main thing we’re trying to get across is that our individual success will come with our team success,” says Peterson, “so we’re really trying to create that team cohesion that everybody is looking for out of the next guy, and nobody’s really on their own.”
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