Thursday, May 15, 2014

Clark Cup Games 3 & 4 preview

The Indiana Ice and Waterloo Black Hawks couldn't have been much closer in Games 1 & 2. Two contests that could have gone either way -- the Ice had early leads in both, and had a 2-0 lead in Game 1. Waterloo, briefly, had a third-period lead in Game 2. The Ice dropped the first game 4-2 that included two disallowed goals and was sealed with an empty-netter, and won the second 3-2 in 2OT.

The best-of-5 series heads back to Pan Am Pavilion for Games 3 and 4 this weekend, with both games dropping the puck at 7:05 p.m. With Pan Am's limited seating capacity, get there early. If necessary, Game 5 will be Tuesday night in Waterloo.

Links from Game 1
Links from Game 2

Game 1 saw the Ice jump out to a two-goal lead early on goals by Josh Jacobs and Scott Conway, and then the bounces went the wrong way. Waterloo struck back to get the equalizer by the middle of the second period on a puck that bounced off goaltender Jason Pawloski's back and trickled into the net for the tying goal. It appeared the Ice had scored the go-ahead goal later in the frame, but it was waved off, much to the chagrin of the Ice bench. Waterloo's Blake Winiecki scored the winner early in the third, deflecting in a Jake Horton shot, and the Black Hawks had 4-2 win after an empty-netter and a 1-0 series lead.

The Ice had better luck in Game 2, dominating possession for much of the game and getting PPGs from Jacobs and Mitch Hults before Joe Sullivan scored on a wraparound in the second OT to knot the series. Tyler Sheehy scored his second of the series on the PP and John Wiitala had a SHG early in the third that briefly put Waterloo up 2-1.

Looking at the first two games ...
  • Two similar teams, evenly-matched, playing close hockey games. Expect the same in Indy this weekend. Obviously, the winner of Game 3 will have the inside track at the Clark Cup, but with every game being so close, will it matter? 
  • The two teams have played once in Indy -- a 6-2 Ice win in February on the Pan Am rink. Indiana is 3-1 at home in the playoffs. Waterloo is 2-1 on the road. 
  • Both teams are fast squads that forecheck heavy and play a strong puck-possession game. But the Ice really excelled at that aspect in Game 2. On the smaller NHL-sized rink at Pan Am Pavilion, that could play into the Ice's hands.
  • One of the keys for the Ice was to keep the game 5-on-5 and keep Waterloo's lethal PP (25% in the regular season, 32% in the first two rounds of the playoffs) off the ice. Instead, it's been the Ice PP that has been effective, going 2-7 (29%) so far in the series. Waterloo is 1-6 (13%), but also has a shorthanded goal, so the special teams equalize themselves. Take out Waterloo's empty-netter (in a 6-on-5 situation), and the teams have 5 goals apiece: 2 in special teams, 3 5-on-5.
  • Waterloo's Cal Petersen made 59 saves on 62 shots in Game 2, but don't overlook the play of Pawloski, who was brilliant, especially in the first OT when the Black Hawks had several great chances. Outside of that, the Ice controlled possession and dominated the play in Game 2. 
  • Big point-getters for the Ice: Austin Kosack (3 assists), Josh Jacobs (2 goals) and Patrick Newell (2 assists) all have multiple points in the series (both of Newell's points and two of Kosack's assists have come as assists on the Ice's two PPGs, scored by Jacobs and Mitch Hults). Hults, Joe Sullivan and Scott Conway have scored the goals. The nice thing is that several lines are providing the scoring. The line centered by USHL First Team All-Star Conway did a lot of the damage the first two series, backed up by the Jacob Pritchard-Brian Pinho-Aidan Muir trio. Pinho nearly had the winner - he rang the goalpost late in regulation. In a long series where matchups are critical, scoring from multiple lines is naturally important. 
  • Kosack didn't get an assist on Sullivan's game-winner in Game 2, but his work below the goal line set it up, possessing the puck behind the Waterloo net in tight space. It was knocked off his stick to the side of the net, but that gave Sullivan the space to jump on it, pop free on the opposite side and rifle the puck into the far side.
  • Looking at Waterloo: Tyler Sheehy has 2 goals and 1 assist in the series, including his team's only PPG, which came in Game 2 (in fact, all of the Game 2 goals except Sullivan's game-winner came on special teams). Hayden Shaw and Jake Horton have a goal and an assist each. Drew Melanson has two assists. 
  • Great bluelines? Of course. The Ice's deep defense corps needs no introduction, but it's nice to see the two-way stalwarts Josh Jacobs and Austin Kosack have a good start to the series offensively, because they've been solid in their own end all season, leading USHL defensemen in +/- during the regular season. But Waterloo's Brandon Montour was named USHL Defenseman of the Year, and Hayden Shaw was a league All-Star, as was Petersen. 
  • Finish? Both teams are 6-0 in the playoffs when leading after two periods. The Ice are 1-1 when tied after two, Waterloo is 1-2. Both of the first two games in the series were tied after two. 
These two games are going to be fun. A lot of fun. Looking forward to seeing everyone at Pan Am Pavilion.

Jim Mirabello's broadcasts can be heard at (PPV video) and (free audio), as well.

Game 2 highlights:
Game 1 highlights:

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