As the USHL season went along, it became apparent the Indiana Ice and Waterloo Black Hawks were the class of the field. Both teams pulled away to division titles, and battled tooth and nail for the Anderson Cup before Waterloo edged out the Ice 93 points to 91 for the USHL's regular season title.
The formalities are past. Both teams dominated their conferences in the playoffs as they did during the regular season -- going 6-1 against their neighbors. Now, it's time for the USHL's two best teams to square off over five games for the championship.
Dubuque and Green Bay have had a stranglehold on the title for the last four years, so there will be a new champion. For the second time in their 10-year history, the Indiana Ice are in the Clark Cup Final. They'll be seeking their second championship in five years. Meanwhile, Waterloo will also be seeking its second title in history, having won in 2004.
The schedule is as follows -- as has been the norm, stacked with weekend games (all times EDT):
Friday, May 9: at Young Arena, Waterloo, 8:05 p.m.
Saturday, May 10: at Young Arena, Waterloo, 8:05 p.m.
Friday, May 16: at Pan Am Pavilion, Indianapolis, 7:05 p.m.
Saturday, May 17: at Pan Am Pavilion, Indianapolis, 7:05 p.m. (if necessary)
Tuesday, May 20: at Young Arena, Waterloo, 8:05 p.m. (if necessary)
Series preview follows after the jump.
Being in opposite conferences, the two teams aren't terribly familiar with each other, having played a home-and-home during the season. Each team won handily on its home ice -- the Ice posted a 6-2 win at Pan Am Pavilion in early February, the Black Hawks responded with a 5-2 win at Young Arena a week later.
The two teams are markedly different. Waterloo relies on its speed -- especially at home, where it plays on a wider Olympic-sized ice surface -- and its power play. The Black Hawks feasted on special teams during their three games to one victory over Sioux City during the Western Conference Final. The Black Hawks are the USHL's most potent offensive team. Meanwhile, the Ice are the top defensive team in the league, leading the USHL in goals allowed and shots allowed, while also being able to score at a decent clip.
We've said this for three straight series, but special teams will be critical. The Ice have been dominant 5-on-5 in the postseason. In the three-game sweep of Dubuque, the Ice allowed just one 5-on-5 goal and outscored the Fighting Saints 8-1 in 5-on-5 situations. Dubuque had two PPGs and two goals with the goaltender pulled. In 5-on-5 play, the Ice have outscored their foes 13-3 during the postseason. The goaltenders -- Hayden Stewart and Jason Pawloski -- have combined for three shutouts, tying a USHL record for a playoff year. All three came against Green Bay, setting a league record for shutouts in a playoff series.
Meanwhile, Waterloo feasts on getting power plays and making the most of them. In the postseason, the Black Hawks have drawn an average of 5.7 power plays a game -- two more than any of the other three final four teams -- and converted on 32.5 percent. During the regular season, Waterloo led the USHL in PP efficiency (25.2%). Waterloo has also killed off 24 of the 26 man advantage situations against in the postseason.
The Ice's PP is a strong 24 percent in the power play, but has drawn three penalties per game. However, the PK is clicking at a 76.2 percent rate. Five of the 10 goals the Ice have allowed have come on the PP. Another was an empty-netter, two more came on 6-on-5 situations. During the regular season, both teams were adept at drawing power plays (Ice were 2nd, Black Hawks 4th in PP attempts during the season), but Waterloo was the second-least penalized team in the league.
Both teams feature top scorers -- Indy's Scott Conway is third in the USHL in points (68) and second in goals (37). Brian Pinho is sixth in goals (28). Waterloo's Patrick Russell is fifth with 29 goals, but the Black Hawks have three of the top 10 point-getters in the league -- Peter Kireger (26-41-67), Brandon Montour (14-48-62) and Liam Pecararo (20-41-61). Montour is the highest-scoring defenseman in the USHL, and the only D to tally more than 45 points.Russell (29), Krieger (26), Blake Winiecki (24), Tyler Sheehy (21) and Pecararo (20) are all 20-goal scorers for Waterloo. In the playoffs, Montour has 14 points (5G, 9A) to lead all USHL scorers. He had a goal and four assists in the Sioux City second-round series. Winiecki (5-7-12) and Sheehy (5-6-11) are also above 10 points. Drew Melanson also has five goals in seven games, including three in the Sioux City semifinal series.
Expect Cal Petersen to get the start in net. He was 27-7-4 during the regular season witha 2.50 GAA. He has a .922 save percentage in the playoffs.
The Ice have three 20-goal scorers -- Conway (33), Pinho (28) and Dwyer Tschantz (24). Pawloski had a 2.46 GAA and 27-8-6 record during the season, but has been lights-out in the playoffs. Conway leads the Ice in playoff scoring with two goals and five assists. Sam Kurker, Patrick Newell and Denis Smirnov all lead the Ice in goal scoring with three each. Defenseman Matt Roy is the other multi-goal scorer, with two goals in the postseason. Pawloski is 5-1 with a 1.33 GAA and a .947 save percentage.
Previous meetings (series tied 1-1)
March 6: Waterloo 5, Ice 2 (at Young Arena, Waterloo): The Black Hawks got the power play going early, with Zach Sanford and Tyler Sheehy scoring PPGs 1:47 apart in the first period to give their team a 3-0 lead. Dwyer Tschantz and Brian Pinho scored goals in the latter part of the game for the Ice, but an empty-netter by Tim Lappin sealed the victory for Waterloo. Lappin had three points in the game. Derek Pratt and Tyson McLellan had the Black Hawks' other goals. Cam Johnson made 30 saves in the Waterloo net for the win. Jason Pawloski stopped 38 of 42 shots in the loss.
Feb. 28: Ice 6, Waterloo 2 (at Pan Am Pavilion): The Ice scored the game's first four goals and never looked back in an emphatic victory. They came out flying, outshooting Waterloo 26-8 in the opening period. Ryan Mantha's PPG midway through the first period got the Ice started, but Scott Conway and Aidan Muir scoring two goals in the final :52 of the first period gave the Ice a 3-0 lead. Brian Pinho later scored twice, and Tim Shoup added a goal. Pinho (2G), Conway (G/A), Muir (G/A), Vince Pedrie (2A) and Austin Kosack (2A) had two-point games for the Ice. Jason Pawloski stopped 36 of 38 shots for the win. Zach Sanford and Peter Krieger scored for Waterloo. Cal Petersen gave up five goals on 32 shots before being lifted for Cam Johnson late in the second period.
Head to head
Ice 2-6 (33.3%), Waterloo 2-7 (28.6%)
Goals by period
IND 3-3-2 -- 8
WAT 3-2-2 -- 7
Shots by period
IND 38-18-19 --75
WAT 18-36-27 -- 81
Ice leaders: Brian Pinho (3-0-3), Scott Conway (1-2-3), Aidan Muir (1-1-2), Tim Shoup (1-1-2), Vince Pedrie (0-2-2, Austin Kosack (0-2-2). Goaltender: Jason Pawloski (1-1-0, 3.01 GAA, .925sv%)
Black Hawks leaders: Tim Lappin (1-3-4), Zach Sanford (2-0-2), Tyler Sheehy (1-1-2), Hayden Shaw (0-2-2). Goaltenders: Cam Johnson (1-0-0, 1.42 GAA, .952sv%), Cal Petersen (0-1-0, 8.91 GAA, .844sv%)
Indiana Ice (42-11-7, 1st USHL East)
Home: 21-5-4; Road: 21-6-3
Regular season goals per game: 3.88 for (3rd USHL)/2.35 against (t1st USHL)
Regular season power play: 18.6% (53-285) (8th USHL)/Penalty kill: 85.7% (233-272) (3rd USHL)
Top regular-season scorers: Scott Conway (33-35-68, +40); Brian Pinho (28-28-56, +29); Dwyer Tschantz (24-20-44, +31), Patrick Newell (13-30-43, +24)
Regular season goaltending: Hayden Stewart (14GP, 13-1-0, 1.29, .945, 4SHO); Jason Pawloski (42GP, 27-8-6, 2.46, .904, 4SHO)
Playoff goals per game: 2.71 for (19 total)/1.57 against (11 total)
Playoff power play: 23.8% (5-21)/Penalty kill: 76.2% (15-21)
Top playoff scorers: Scott Conway (2-5-7, +6), Sam Kurker (3-3-6, +6), Matt Roy (2-3-5, +6), Patrick Newell (3-1-4, +3), Denis Smirnov (3-1-4, +5), Jacob Pritchard (1-3-4, +4)
Playoff goaltending: Jason Pawloski (6GP, 5-1, 1.13 GAA, .947sv%, 2SHO); Hayden Stewart (1-0, 2.40 GAA, .892sv%, 1SHO)
Waterloo Black Hawks (44-11-5, 1st USHL West)
Home: 23-6-1; Road: 21-5-4
Regular season goals per game: 4.00 for (1st USHL)/2.55 against (3rd USHL)
Regular season power play: 25.2% (70-278) (1st USHL)/Penalty kill: 81.7% (179-219) (8th USHL)
Top regular-season scorers: Peter Krieger (26-41-67, +26), Brandon Montour (14-48-62, +35), Liam Pecararo (20-41-61, +28), Blake Winiecki (24-26-50, +18), Patrick Russell (29-20-49, +21), Tyler Sheehy (21-28-49, +25), Drew Melanson (17-27-44, +19)
Regular season goaltending: Cal Petersen (27-7-4, 2.50 GAA, .915sv%, 2SHO), Cam Johnson (11-1-1, 1.86 GAA, .939sv%)
Playoff goals per game: 4.86 for (34 total)/2.43 against (17 total)
Playoff power play: 32.5% (13-40)/Penalty kill: 92.3% (24-26)
Top playoff scorers: Brandon Montour (5-9-14, +7), Blake Winiecki (5-7-12, +5), Tyler Sheehy (5-6-11, +8), Liam Pecararo (3-7-10, +5), Drew Melanson (5-2-7, +5), Zach Sanford (2-5-7, +2), Peter Krieger (2-5-7, +3), Mark Friedman (0-6-6, -1)
Playoff goaltending: Cal Petersen (6-1, 2.34 GAA, .922sv%)
Waterloo NHL draft picks: Zach Sanford (Washington-R2 2013), Cal Petersen (Buffalo-R5 2013)
Indiana NHL draft picks: Sam Kurker (St. Louis-R2 2012), Aidan Muir (Edmonton-R4 2013), Brian Pinho (Washington-R6 2013)