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Jim Nelson / WCF Courier, Published April 21 2013

Waterloo takes USHL playoff series lead with victory over Force

WATERLOO, Iowa – In a series where momentum seems to be flipped like a switch, the Waterloo Black Hawks got it at the right time Sunday at Young Arena.

Trailing 4-3 with under 10 minutes remaining in the third period, Chris Leibinger and Ryan Papa scored 1 minute and 23 seconds apart as the Black Hawks rallied for a 6-4 win over the Fargo Force in Game 3 of a United States Hockey League Clark Cup Western Division first-round series.

The win gives Waterloo a 2-1 series lead with Game 4 of the best-of-five series Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. at Young Arena.

“We just stayed the course,” Waterloo head coach P.K. O’Handley said. “They are a good team, we are a good team and it has been back and forth.

“The first two games of the series there were a lot of momentum shifts and today we just stuck to it and finally got ours, got it when it counted late.”

True to the series, the Force and Black Hawks each carried the play at different times through the first two periods.

Fargo led 2-0 after one before Waterloo scored three times in the second, two by Vince Hinostroza, and two of them power-play, the second coming during a 5-minute major penalty assessed against the Force’s Taylor Fleming for a head contact hit to the Black Hawks’ Zach Stepan that resulted in Stepan being transported to a Waterloo hospital.

“Don’t know his status,” O’Handley said. “Know he was taken to the hospital, but haven’t gotten word back yet. Hopefully we can get him back at some point.”

Just 45 seconds after Waterloo’s Mark Friedman gave the Black Hawks their first lead at 3-2, Jordan Nelson scored Fargo’s second short-handed goal of the series and the Force killed off the remainder of the major penalty to carry the momentum into the second intermission.

Waterloo had allowed just two short-handed goals all season before Fargo scored one in Game 2 and one again Sunday.

“It was big, tied the game back up,” Fargo head coach John Marks said.

The Force jumped on a bad pinch by Leibinger for a 4-3 lead just 1:54 into the third period when Austin Ortega finished off a 3-on-2 rush with his second goal of the playoffs.

But Waterloo didn’t panic and kept on peppering Force goalie Brendan Jensen with shot after shot.

Eventually the continual barrage of shots and another Fargo penalty turned the tide in the Black Hawks favor, and Leibinger redeemed himself.

Just as Alex Iafallo was leaving the Force penalty box for an interference penalty, Papa put a shot on net and J.T. Stenglein gathered the rebound from behind the net and hit a pinching Leibinger for a one-timer and a 4-4 tie with 7:40 left in the game.

“That was huge for him and huge because he knew he had made a mistake earlier and needed to do something,” O’Handley said. “It was also good because the kids were dialed in. That was the key there the play just didn’t end because they had a guy coming out of the box.”

That was the second time Waterloo scored Sunday shortly after a Force player had just left the penalty box. Hinostroza’s first goal came seven seconds after a Fleming hooking penalty expired.

“Technically they got just two power-play goals, but two of their goals were scored as we were just stepping out of the box when they scored,” Marks said. “And like I said, count the six penalties to one and one of them is a major, against a team that has the best power-play in the league, chances are you are going to lose and that is what happened.

“It’s pretty tough when you are in the box a lot.”

Both teams now turn their attention to Tuesday where the Black Hawks hope to win the series, while Force want to send it back to Fargo for a fifth and final game.

Friedman, who finished with a goal and two assists, said it was a huge win.

“It’s big because it gives us a chance to win the series at home Tuesday,” Friedman said. “It’s not going to be easy, but you can’t ask for anything more than a chance to win it at home.”

“This is such a series, and I can’t speak for them, but it is an everyday thing,” O’Handley added. “We’re not talking about being a game up or a chance to win it, we’re about the game that is in front of us and that is Game 4 Tuesday.”

FIRST PERIOD: 1, F, Harms (Goff), 15:20. 2, F, Bayreuther, 19:46 (pp).

SECOND PERIOD: 3, W, Hinostroza (Friedman, Papa), 12:47. 4, W, Hinostroza (Stenglein, Friedman), 14:13 (pp). 5, W, Friedman (Hinostroza, Papa), 15:02 (pp). 6, F, Nelson, 15:47 (sh).

THIRD PERIOD: 7, F, Ortega (Gust), 1:56. 8, W, Leibinger (Stenglein, Papa), 12:20. 9, W, Papa (Leibinger, Stenglein), 13:43. 10, Hinostroza (Papa), 19:10 (en).

SAVES: F, Jensen 18-14-10–42. W, Peterson 11-10-11–32.