A buzzer-beater, a milestone, and perhaps the luck o’ the Irish were part of Thursday’s 6-5 Waterloo Black Hawks win against the Muskegon Lumberjacks at L.C. Walker Arena in western Michigan.
On both St. Patrick’s Day and the opening night of March Madness, Nick Swaney scored with just 0.9 seconds remaining to give the Hawks their only lead of the game, leaving the Lumberjacks without enough time to stage a comeback. The decision was the 600th regular season United States Hockey League victory for Hawks Head Coach P.K. O’Handley. He becomes the first coach in league history to reach that mark.
The winning goal came following a faceoff with 9.5 seconds remaining in the offensive zone. After a scramble off the draw, Liam Pecararo found the puck in the slot, turned and put it on net. Devin Cooley parried away the chance, but lunged to the ice in order to make the save. That left Swaney with an open net to score the winning from the right wing circle. It was his second goal of the contest.
Each team had scored twice in the opening period, and in both cases the goals came quickly. At 3:51, Rem Pitlick capitalized from the top of the right circle following a faceoff win. During a power play at 4:49, Pitlick was on the setup end of a second Muskegon tally, stuffed in by Collin Adams.
Waterloo began to rally at 8:22. Sam Rossini fired a shot from the high slot after coming to the ice on a change. Cooley made the initial save, but Yuri Terao was near the bottom of the right circle to collect the rebound and lift it between the pipes. Zach Yon tied the contest 39 seconds later with a wrister in transition which eluded Cooley.
Pitlick put the Lumberjacks back in front 28 seconds into the second period, scoring off a cross-slot pass by Adams. Three-and-a-half minutes later, another transition opportunity was finished by Matej Paulovic from the top of the crease to make the score 4-2.
A rare shorthanded goal whittled the deficit to 4-3 at 10:40. Swaney mopped up the rebound left after Ronnie Hein’s strong move to the net; the tally was just Waterloo’s second shorty of the season. Paulovic extended the lead again at 16:07, lifting a shot under the crossbar from the left circle. With 35.4 seconds to go before intermission, Jake Ryczek moved the count back within one goal one more time, converting a power play opportunity from between the hash marks.
Yon scored his second game-tying goal of the evening, bringing the Hawks level at 7:13 of the third. He found the net from the right faceoff dot off Ryczek’s feed from the high slot.
Waterloo’s eastern swing continues on Friday with a game against the Chicago Steel at Fox Valley Ice Arena.
Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, the USHL celebrates its 14th season as the nation's only Tier I junior hockey league in 2015-16. A record 37 players were chosen in the 2015 NHL Draft and more than 375 players on team rosters last season committed to NCAA Division I schools, further establishing the USHL as the world’s foremost producer of junior hockey talent.