After 480 regular season games have been played and 10 playoff series completed, just two teams remain in the quest for the Clark Cup title. The Green Bay Gamblers and Waterloo Black Hawks take to the ice for a best-of-five series beginning this weekend in pursuit of the USHL’s top prize.
USHL Clark Cup Final
Green Bay Gamblers vs. Waterloo Black Hawks
Game 1: Saturday, May 12th, 7:05 PM – Waterloo @ Green Bay BUY TICKETS
Game 2: Sunday, May 13th, 5:05 PM – Waterloo @ Green Bay BUY TICKETS
Game 3: Friday, May 18th, 7:05 – Green Bay @ Waterloo
Game 4: Saturday, May 19th, 7:05 – Green Bay @ Waterloo**
Game 5: Wednesday, May 23rd, 7:05 – Waterloo @ Green Bay **
(all times reflect local start time)
How They Got Here
The Green Bay Gamblers finished the regular season with the best record in the USHL (47-9-4) to earn the Anderson Cup. It also meant a first-round bye in the playoffs. In the second round, they defeated the Youngstown Phantoms (3-1) and swept the Indiana Ice (3-0) in the Eastern Conference Final to reach the Clark Cup Final series for the third consecutive year. The last USHL team to make three straight appearances in the championship series was the Omaha Lancers from 2001-03.
The Waterloo Black Hawks finished third in the Western Conference with a 35-19-6 record (76 points), but just four points out of first place. They have played more games (10) in the 2012 USHL Clark Cup Playoffs than any other team. In the first round, they swept the Tri-City Storm (2-0) for their first playoff series win since 2008. Waterloo then knocked off the Omaha Lancers (3-1) in the second round and the Lincoln Stars (3-1) in the Western Conference Final, the two teams that finished above them during the regular season.
We Meet Again
It is the third time in the last four years, and fourth time in USHL history, that the Gamblers and Black Hawks will meet in the Clark Cup Playoffs. Green Bay swept Waterloo in best-of-five game series during the first round of both 2009 and 2010 when each team was in the Eastern Conference. The teams first met in the postseason during the first round of the 2000 playoffs when the Gamblers earned a 3-1 series win. Waterloo is 1-9 all-time in postseason play with the Gamblers. The lone victory coming on March 30th, 2000 – a 4-0 shutout in Green Bay during Game One of their series.
The teams met four times during the regular season with Green Bay winning three of the contests, including two by shutout. Waterloo won the most recent meeting on April 7th, the first win in Green Bay since October 3rd, 2009. The Black Hawks were 0-7-1 (including playoffs) in eight previous games in Green Bay.
2011-12 Regular Season Series
10/21/11 – Green Bay 6 @ Waterloo 3
11/5/11 – Green Bay 4 @ Waterloo 0
2/7/12 – Waterloo 0 @ Green Bay 3
4/7/12 – Waterloo 5@ Green Bay 3
The Green Bay Gamblers have won the Clark Cup three times (2010, 2000, 1996) while the Waterloo Black Hawks have captured the championship once (2004).
Waterloo’s P.K. O’Handley has coached 17 seasons in the USHL amassing 464 regular season victories, fifth all-time in League history. Of his win total, 324 have come in 10 seasons in Waterloo. O’Handley led the club to 35 wins this season, the seventh time the Black Hawks have won at least 30 games in a season during his tenure.
Derek Lalonde is in his first USHL season after coaching at the collegiate level. He led Green Bay to a team record 47 wins this season and helped guide the Gamblers to USHL records for points in a season (98) and road wins (25). Lalonde’s win total is the most by a first-year USHL head coach.
Both coaches are former collegiate goaltenders.
Green Bay (4.43) and Waterloo (4.30) have been the two highest scoring teams in the playoffs, both averaging more than four goals per game.
Waterloo is a perfect 6-0 on home ice during the 2012 Clark Cup Playoffs, outscoring the opposition 29-11 over that span. Dating back to the regular season, the Black Hawks have won 15 consecutive games on home ice. Green Bay is undefeated on the road (3-0) in the postseason and has a 12-5 goal advantage in those three games. The Gamblers have not lost in regulation on the road since January 28th, going 12-0-2 since (including playoffs).
Waterloo has outscored their opponents 19-6 in the first period thus far in the playoffs. They have scored the first goal in 8-of-10 playoff games.
Three of the top six scorers from the regular season are in this series. Alex Broadhurst of Green Bay finished third in USHL scoring with 73 points (26g, 47a) in 53 games while teammate Nolan LaPorte tied for fourth with 70 points (36g, 34a) in 57 games. Taylor Cammarata of Waterloo was sixth in scoring with 69 points (27g, 42a) in 60 games. The 16-year-old was the youngest player in USHL Tier 1 history to score more than 60 points in a season.
Waterloo has five of the top 10 scorers in the postseason – Jamie Hill (5g, 6a), Tyler Zepeda (4g, 7a), and Mitch Witek (2g, 9a) are all tied for second in the USHL with 11 points. Green Bay has two players in the top 10, including Alex Broadhurst who leads the League with 13 points (7g, 6a) in seven playoff games. He is tied for the goal lead with Taylor Cammarata of Waterloo who also has scored seven goals.
Three of the four goals scored by Tyler Zepeda have been game-winners, while two of the four goals scored by Sam Herr of Green Bay have been the deciding goal in the playoffs.
Waterloo goaltender Stephon Williams has been in net for all 10 playoff games for his team, posting a 2.21 GAA and .925 SV%. Ryan McKay has also manned the crease in seven playoff games for the Gamblers, posting a 2.26 GAA and .916 SV%. Both goaltenders have 12 career USHL playoff victories.
Both teams have a pair of 2011 NHL Draft picks on their roster; Green Bay defenseman Andy Welinski (3rd round, 83rd overall to Anaheim Ducks) and forward Alex Broadhurst (7th round, 199th overall to Chicago Blackhawks) and Waterloo forward Tony Cameranesi (5th round, 130th overall to Toronto Maple Leafs) and defenseman Eddie Wittchow (6th round, 154th overall to Florida Panthers).
The teams also boast six players ranked as top prospects for the 2012 NHL Draft and appeared on NHL Central Scouting final rankings. Among the highest-rated North American skaters are defensemen Jordan Schmaltz (#34), Dakota Mermis (#84), and forward Alex Kile (#168) of Green Bay and forwards A.J. Michaelson (#87) and Vince Hinostroza (#115) of Waterloo. Stephon Williams (#34) is ranked among the top North American goaltenders.
Among the playoff rosters for the two teams are 35 players committed to NCAA Division I hockey programs following their USHL careers – Green Bay (19) and Waterloo (16).
Several players in the series are celebrating birthdays in the coming days. Green Bay forward Nicholas Schilkey will turn 18 on Saturday, the same day the puck drops for Game One of the Clark Cup Final series. The next day, Taylor Cammarata of Waterloo celebrates his 17th birthday on the same day as Game Two of the series.
Other players who celebrate birthdays this month:
Green Bay – Nolan LaPorte (20) on May 4th, Alex Broadhurst (19) on May 7th, Grant Arnold (21) on May 8th, and Matthew Weis (17) on May 23rd
Waterloo – Alex Barron (21) on May 9th and Josh Nenadal (18) on May 14th
Across the Map
Players in the Clark Cup Final series represent 13 different states, led by Illinois with nine total players between the two teams. In addition, five other countries are represented by players in the series, including Canada, Denmark, Finland, Russia, and Ukraine.
The winner of the series will be the 10th winner of the Clark Cup in the USHL Tier 1 era. Nine different teams, including Green Bay and Waterloo, have hoisted the Cup since the League earned designation at the nation’s only Tier 1 junior hockey league in August of 2002.
This year will mark the 18th straight year that a different team from the previous season will win the Clark Cup. Over that span, 10 different USHL teams have captured the Clark Cup. The last team to win consecutive championships was the Omaha Lancers in 1993 and 1994.
Ten years ago during the first Clark Cup Final series in the Tier 1 era, the Lincoln Stars defeated the Omaha Lancers 3-1 in the best-of-five series. In Game Four of the series, Dan Irmen, David Backes, and Chris Porter all scored a goal for Lincoln while Drew Miller netted the lone goal for Omaha in the 5-1 contest. A few weeks later, all four would be selected in the 2003 NHL Draft. Backes (St. Louis Blues), Porter (St. Louis Blues), and Miller (Detroit Red Wings) all played in the NHL this season.
Also playing that series were future NHL players Paul Stastny (Colorado Avalanche), Nathan Gerbe (Buffalo Sabres), and Matt Carle (Philadelphia Flyers) for the Omaha Lancers. Nate Raduns of the Lancers and Ryan Potulny of the Lincoln Stars would also play games in the NHL.
The Green Bay Gamblers Fan Bus will be heading to Waterloo, Iowa for games 3 and 4 of the Clark Cup Finals. Cost is $100.00 and includes bus and a ticket to games 3 and 4. Kids rate (14 and under) is $50.00. Bus will depart Green Bay the morning of Friday, May 18 and return either Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning. To reserve your spot or to find out more call Tom at 366-4375 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Smokehouse is also your home for all the Gamblers Clark Cup road playoff games. Catch game 3 of the Clark Cup Finals on Friday, May 18. Face off from Young Arena inWaterloo,Iowais set for 7:05 PM. Game 4 (if necessary) is set for Saturday, May 19 and will also be shown live at the Smokehouse (7:05 PM). The Smokehouse is located just a slap-shot away from the Resch Center on Armed Forces Drive
On Saturday (5/12) stop by the Bay City Smokehouse for the Clark Cup Finals Pre-Game Party. Fans 21 years of age and older can enjoy Budweiser product draughts for $1.00 or Bud product bottles for $2.00. Game 1 between the Gamblers and Waterloo Black Hawks is set for 7:05 PM. The Smokehouse is located just a slap-shot away from the Resch Center on Armed Forces Drive
After losing games 1 and 2 at the Resch Center to the Fargo Force in the Clark Cup Finals, the Gamblers put together a comeback for the ages. Green Bay won games 3 and 4 in Fargo, thus bringing the game back to Green Bay for a winner take all Game 5, May 12th, 2010. A USHL single-game playoff record crowd of 8,487 saw the Gamblers prevail 5-3 to claim the organizations first Clark Cup since 2000. Forward Anders Lee was named Clark Cup Playoffs Most Valuable Player. Lee led the league in playoff scoring tallying 22 points (10 goals and 12 assists), including three points (1 goal and 2 assists) in game 5 of the finals.
For the the second time in the team’s short history the Gamblers won the Clark Cup in 2000. For a second straight season, a Gambler was named Defenseman of the Year in the USHL when Jeff Finger was picked for that honor. Green Bay enter the USHL playoffs as the second seed and after losing their first game of the playoffs to Waterloo, the Gamblers won the series 3-1. The clinching game of the first round was a three overtime thriller that fell 1:29 short of a new record at the time for longest playoff game in USHL history. Luke Stauffacher ended the game with the game winning goal. The Gamblers were taken the distance by the Des Moines Buccaneers, but prevailed 3-2 in the series. It took overtime in the fifth game of Clark Cup Championship series against the Twin Cities Vulcans, but Gamblers forward Aaron Smith scored 8:55 into OT for the clinching goal and the Gamblers hoisted the Clark Cup. Smith was named Clark Cup Finals MVP.