Waterloo Black Hawks Weekly Preview
NTDP Visits Young Arena
The Black Hawks are on home ice Friday and Saturday (both at 7:05 p.m.) against the U.S. National Team Development Program. The Plymouth, Michigan-based NTDP is composed of leading American players born in 2000 (Under-18s) and 2001 (Under-17). The Program plays in the USHL as two separate squads sharing one 60-game schedule; the U-18s play 26 USHL contests each winter, with the U-17s skating for the remaining 34. This season, Waterloo's matchups with the National Team Development Program will be played against the U-17s. The Program visits, then hosts, Waterloo respectively during alternating seasons. Black Hawks forward Joey Cassetti spent two seasons as a member of the NTDP.
Seeing New Faces
The NTDP is the last opponent Waterloo is meeting for the first time in 2017/18. The Hawks have been broadly successful in their head-to-head series efforts. Waterloo has clinched a regular season points advantage against the following opponents (*-indicates at least one regular season meeting still remains): Cedar Rapids, Chicago, Des Moines*, Dubuque*. Green Bay, Lincoln, Omaha, Sioux City*, and Tri-City. The Hawks split with Central Illinois and Muskegon, and took series losses to Fargo, Madison*, and Youngstown. That leaves only the head-to-head results with the NTDP and the Sioux Falls Stampede undecided.
When the Black Hawks visited the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders Friday, three defensemen returned to the lineup after being sidelined for six games or more. Hank Sorensen scored his fifth goal of the season that evening, and Ben Finkelstein had an assist. Saturday against the Dubuque Fighting Saints, Finkelstein added three more assists, tying him with Sorensen for the most points among Waterloo defensemen. Both have 18. Hunter Lellig was the third member of the group. He also claimed an assist during Saturday's win.
Friday, the Black Hawks will play the 50th game on their 60-game schedule. Four players stepping onto the ice that night will be making their 50th appearance of the season: Jackson Cates, Ben Copeland, Garrett Klee and Michael Ferrandino. Last season, Shane Bowers was the only player to skate in all 60 Waterloo games.
The Hawks have played 26 games since Christmas; they have scored four goals or more in half of them, including both games last weekend. Jack Drury notched a goal and an assist on Friday, but the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders slipped past Waterloo, 5-4 in a shootout. Saturday, the Hawks romped to a 5-1 result versus the Dubuque Fighting Saints, behind two goals from Jackson Cates and three assists by Ben Finkelstein.
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