Green Bay won the Anderson Cup for the USHL's best regular season record, and the Gamblers put themselves one win away from their second Clark Cup in three years with a 3-1 victory Friday night in Waterloo. But the Black Hawks, the Western Conference's No. 3 seed entering the playoffs, held off Green Bay's championship charge with a thrilling 5-3 decision Saturday in beyond-loud Young Arena.
Jamie Hill scored the go-ahead power play goal, his second of the game, with 2:36 left in the third period, then the New Hampshire recruit added an empty netter in the final minute to complete the hat trick and clinch the win.
Hill, a third-year Black Hawk from New Jersey, spoke with the media following Saturday's tilt:
(Video courtesy of USHL.com)
Following the game, Waterloo head coach/GM P.K. O'Handley suggested that most of the pressure for Wednesday's winner-take-all match rests on the shoulders of the Gamblers, since they dominated the league over the course of the regular season and were the clear favorites to claim the Clark.
Gamblers first-year bench boss Derek Lalonde, who coached alongside Lumberjacks Assistant Coach Steve Palmer at the University of Denver, took a gracious tone after the game and seemed not surprised that the series was tied after four games:
The season's final contest will begin Wednesday night at 8:05 p.m. Eastern time. Remember that you can watch the action live (or on-demand) at FASTHockey.com; catch the full recap and post-game interviews on USHL.com! For more information, including the leading scorers and goalies in the Clark Cup Playoffs, check out Pointstreak.com's interactive bracket page.
Pittsburgh Penguins star Yevgeni Malkin won the tournament scoring title and MVP with 11 goals and eight assists, making this writer quite proud. (Although I would preferred he still be scoring in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but what can you do?)
Of course you don't have to be a Pens fan - or a Russian-American for that matter - to be pleased with the results overseas. Although the Americans suffered a bitter loss to host Finland in the quarterfinal round last Thursday, Team USA put up its best results in the Worlds in a long time.
|Muskegon's Justin Abdelkader|
Individually, USHL alumni Max Pacioretty (Sioux City), Paul Stastny (Omaha) and Justin Faulk (NTDP) finished 1-2-3 on the USA scoring list, with Pacioretty's 12 points (2g, 10a) standing up as the most for an American in the World Championship in decades.
Of local interest, former Cedar Rapids RoughRider and Muskegon native Justin Abdelkader made West Michigan proud with a goal, three assists and a plus-4 rating. Fellow Detroit Red Wing Jimmy Howard, a University of Maine alumnus, was staunch in net, stopping over 91 percent of the shots fired his way en route to a 5-2-0 mark and a shutout of the Finns.
To put a bow on today's post, San Jose Sharks star and former University of Wisconsin Badger Joe Pavelski stopped by Waterloo's Young Arena over the weekend to take in Games 3 and 4 of the Clark Cup Final. Pavelski played his junior hockey for the Black Hawks before heading to college and eventually the NHL.
"The USHL is producing more and more talent," Pavelski told USHL.com. "It's a developmental stage that a lot of guys in the NHL took back on fondly."
Here's the rest of the interview with Pavelski; stick taps go out to Brian Werger and James D'Amanda from the league office: