USHL Update – Waterloo Black Hawks

By Jason Shaner
The Waterloo Black Hawks, members of the United States Hockey League
have reached the Thanksgiving Break. So far the Hawks are 10-7 and are
in 2nd place in the Eastern Division with 20 points. The Hawks are 6th
in the league overall. So far this season has had its roller coaster
rides with Waterloo playing masterfully at times and at others times
their inability to stay focused for 60 minutes has hurt them. There has
been plenty of competition in net and the offense as advertised has been
producing. The area of concern is still the defense where the Hawks
have had some breakdowns that have ended up costing them goals and
sometimes games.

On the offensive side the three Black Hawks who are in their 3rd year
have produced as expected. Luke Fulghum (Denver University) has
displayed the ability to take control of a game when he wants to. So
far Luke has 5 goals and 6 assists for 11 points. Brian Canady (North
Dakota) has also produced. Brian has been like a field General for the
team. Brian has 9 goals and 7 assists for 16 points. Canady has thrown
his body all over the ice doing anything he can to help the team out.
John Grubb has also been playing well in his 3rd and final year. John
is a grinder for the Black Hawks and does more than just score. Grubb
has 6 goals and 4 assists for 10 points. The other returning Hawks
veterans have played well including Craig Falite who earned offensive
player of the week honors recently in the league.

A couple of rookies have been pleasant surprises so far. Ryan Connelly
(North Dakota) already has a scholarship for himself after this season
but is playing one year of Juniors to hone his skills. So far he has
been one of the top rookies in the league. Ryan has 6 goals and 8
assists for 14 points, good for a 2nd place tie in the scoring lead for
the team. Connelly is not big, but he has a great knack for winning
face-offs and has been spectacular in the passing category. He is just
the kind of sparkplug the Hawks need to continue to win this year.
Connelly’s partner in crime is Dan Krmpotich. Krmpotich was acquired
via trade before the season began. Dan has come in and played very
well. Dan is also not a big player as far as USHL standards go but has
been able to throw his weight around well enough and teams up very well
with the previously mentioned Ryan Connelly. The two have hooked up on
several plays where a goal was the result. To date Krmpotich has
tallied 4 goals and 7 assists for 11 points. Rob Hammel has also played
well as a rookie scoring 5 goals on the season.

On defense Waterloo has played well and has also played not so well.
More times than not the defense is solid if not good but when they do
make a mistake the opposition has made them pay. Leading the charge on
the blue line is Slovakian born Lubos Velebny. Lubos was acquired just
prior to the regular season and has been a welcome addition to the
club. Velebny has a slap shot like none other. If you see him set up
to shoot, you had better get out of the way or you may regret it. Lubos
has 6 goals and 8 assists for 14 points tying him with Ryan Connelly for
2nd on the team in scoring. Lubos broad shoulders and aggressiveness
make him vital the Hawks defensive hopes as the season wears on.
Pairing up with Velebny is Trevor Wolfe. Trevor is another newcomer to
the USHL and Waterloo this year and has been a force. Trevor has 2
goals and 11 assists for 13 points. Wolfe is very good at watching the
play develop and snuffing it out before it can happen. Andrew Alberts
is the only returning defenseman from last season’s team and the A-Train
has been brutal. Andrew’s 6’4″ 215lbs frame is something most players
don’t want to mess with. Andrew has not been a scoring force so far
only having 1 goal and 1 assist, but his checking and intimidating size
are some of his key attributes.

Finally in goal, Waterloo has the pleasure of having some competition
this season. Not many teams can boast two top quality goaltenders but
Waterloo has that problem. Adam Hanna and Kyle Nixon have gone back and
forth this season fighting for the #1 spot. It appears they have come
into a nice rotation. Adam, who is returns from last year, has a 6-3
record with a 3.27 GAA and .894 saves percentage. Adam has been a rock
in the net so far. Nixon has also been spectacular. He displays the
ability to make a save in any situation. Nixon is 4-4 with a 3.57 GAA
and .875 saves percentage. As the season goes on, this “problem” of
having two good goaltenders will turn into a large advantage.

Some numbers to look at on the season, Waterloo has the 2nd best power
play in the league this far and are 7-2 at home while being 3-5 on the
road. The Black Hawks only stand in the middle of the pack on the
penalty kill which will need to be improved if the Hawks want to move
into the upper tier of the teams in this league. Special teams are
vital to winning games, as many of you know. As the season progresses
the defense should continue to improve. Both the offense and defense
have many newcomers that are still getting accustomed to the style of
play in the league. If they can keep their offensive motor humming and
get the defense to be a little stingier then you will see them soar come
playoff time.