Whether it’s opening night, the last date on the schedule, or anywhere in between, there’s never any shortage of excitement when game day rolls around. In today’s Where Are They Now feature, we look back on five memorable regular season finales from years when the Black Hawks did not qualify for the postseason.
March 13, 1977 – Black Hawks 7, Sioux City 5
Sioux City Municipal Auditorium
There was an air of uncertainty about the Black Hawks and the entire United States Hockey League on the final day of the regular season. It was not clear whether the team or the senior league as a whole would be able to overcome a variety of challenges to continue playing the next year.
The Hawks set those concerns aside to overcome their in-state foes, taking the lead on a Mike Farina goal just :55 seconds after the opening faceoff and staying just out of reach. Sioux City drew within one on a goal by Walt Johnson with 5:11 to play in regulation. However, Farina scored again 36 seconds later; it was the goal which proved to be the game winner, because Rick Clubbe found the net with 2:10 to go. Clubbe and the Hawks’ Lou DiMasi the each saw their regular seasons come to an early end when they dropped their gloves 70 seconds before the end of regulation.
The Hawks and USHL did play again the following fall. The 1977/78 season was the first year of senior-junior hybrid hockey as the league transitioned to an all-junior format just before the 1980’s began. Clubbe, the USHL’s second-leading scorer in 1976/77, would even join Waterloo the following fall and help the Hawks to the league’s 1978 playoff title over the Musketeers.
March 21, 1999 – Team USA 8, Black Hawks 3
Veteran forward B.J. Stephens pushed the Black Hawks off to a good start at home against the National Team Development Program, recording the only goal of the first period. However, the game turned in the second, as the visitors scored four times. Goals from Luke Fulghum sliced the lead to one twice – 3-2 and 4-3 – but once Team USA went ahead, the Hawks could never get back on even terms.
The NTDP added four more goals in the third period.
No less than four Team USA players who appeared in the game went on to the NHL. Ron Hainsey and Brad Winchester were both part of the effort; Winchester was involved in a late altercation with Waterloo’s David Wyzgowski. John-Michael Liles had two assists from his spot on the blue line. However, goaltender Rick DiPietro was the quickest player to rise to stardom. He made 22 saves against the Hawks before being selected first overall during the 2000 NHL Draft by the New York Islanders. In addition to winning over 100 NHL games, DiPietro was the United States’ goalie during the 2006 Olympics.
March 25, 2001 – Black Hawks 4, Rochester 2
Rochester Recreation Center
Both the Black Hawks and Mustangs were out of playoff contention as the schedule came to an end in 2000/01. That doesn’t mean there was nothing to play for. Ryan Markham opened the scoring during a power play 4:36 into the first period, but the goal which made it 2-0 was bigger, at least from a milestone standpoint.
Brian Canady scored at 10:13 to double the lead. It was Canady’s 30th goal of the season, making him the first Black Hawk to score 30 goals in one year since Jason Blake reached 50 in 1993/94. It capped a three-year career for the Alaska native before he moved on to the University of North Dakota.
Canady’s linemates John Grubb and Dan Krmpotich scored in the second and third respectively. Waterloo’s goaltending tandem of Todd Marr and Adam Hanna came up just 2:35 short of a combined shutout. Marr started and made 14 saves. Hanna turned away 13 shots. The Mustangs recorded their first goal after a defensive breakdown and their second with just two seconds remaining in regulation.
April 6, 2002 – Tri-City 4, Black Hawks 1
Waterloo fans came out to honor one of the team’s all-time greats. Paulie Johnson’s #11 was permanently retired during an intermission ceremony, which an included an appearance by Johnson’s former teammate, Herb Brooks. In 1960, Johnson had helped the United States to a gold medal at the Squaw Valley Olympics. From the mid-60’s through the early 70’s, he was the scourge of USHL goalies and the league’s biggest scoring star as the Hawks laid a foundation for decades of Waterloo hockey to follow.
The Storm’s David Boguslawski was the big scoring star on this particular evening, however. He netted the goal which proved to be the winner with 1:38 remaining before the first intermission, in addition to another at 9:54 of the third. Chris Margott had the lone Hawks goal at 16:20 of the first period.
The game included second period fights between Jim Jensen and Matt Scherer, as well as Jake Schwan tilting with Justin Laverdiere. However the fight with 6:10 to go in the contest was most memorable: Hawks goalie Steve Witkowski met his counterpart Larry Sterling at center ice.
March 10, 1991 – Black Hawks 5, Thunder Bay 1
The Flyers got to take home the trophy, but Waterloo celebrated the win.
Before the puck dropped, Dave Siciliano’s Flyers were presented with the Anderson Cup on the Hawks’ home ice. Thunder Bay had won 36 games and Waterloo just 16, none against the Flyers to that point.
Goaltender Corwin Saurdiff made sure made sure Waterloo wouldn’t fall to opposition from north of the boarder during the finale. He made 46 saves during his final appearance as a Black Hawk. The effort was a solid final impression before the San Jose Sharks selected the Warroad, Minnesota, native in the NHL Draft three months later.
Offensively, Ryan Alaspa and Damon Foster scored in the first period. Duane Roe added another in the second. Kevin Wood and Doug Mann capped the evening in the third. Mann’s goal at 8:11 of the final frame was his 32nd of the season.
Although the Hawks missed the playoffs by four points, their 17-29-2 record was the best finish in three seasons and helped first-year Head Coach Rob Grillo lay the foundation for a playoff-qualifying run the next spring.
Where Are They Now is presented by Karen’s Print Rite.