SIOUX CITY | Playoff hockey offers its cases of adversity and right now, the Sioux City Musketeers are feeling it.
Puck possession, something both coaches in this Western Conference Finals series felt would be critical, has been exactly that. This time, it was the Waterloo Black Hawks capitalizing on a turnover.
Action was tight near the boards in overtime where Bailey Conger launched a pass to Yuki Miura, who scored his first-ever playoff goal at the 6:47 mark to give Waterloo a 2-1 win Sunday night in a tense United States Hockey League Clark Cup Playoff game at the Tyson Events Center.
The series is now knotted at a game apiece. Game 3 will take place Friday night at the Black Hawks’ home ice at Young Arena.
“I couldn’t see it really, what happened in the corner, I’ll have to go back and look at the video,” said Musketeers Coach Jay Varady. “I think there was a turnover in the corner, they were able to spring a puck to the slot and we kind of let a guy loose in a pretty key area of the ice.
“It was a good game. It was two good teams, an overtime game, it’s playoff hockey. We have to find a way in key moments to get a goal and tonight, we didn’t do that.”
Miura, a 5-foot-9, 165-pound native of Tokyo, Japan, had been a scratch for Game 1, where Sioux City posted a 5-2 victory. The Lake Superior State recruit couldn’t have asked for a better teammate in that situation.
After all, Conger had contributed three goals and an assist in the regular-season series between the two rivals, including the overtime goal in a 4-3 win at the Tyson Events Center on Jan. 29.
“I’d like to thank Coach P.K. O’Handley for giving me a chance,” said Miura, who scored 17 points (7 goals, 10 assists) in the regular season. “My linemates, Bailey Conger and Kevin Charyszyn had a great fore check and made a pass to me. I was in the right place at the right time. Bailey Conger gave me a great pass.
“Today, I scored, but everybody played the right way from the first period to the end, the way our fore check was going, the way we shot the puck. We played lights out and that’s why we won.”
Waterloo had posted three regular-season overtime wins over the Musketeers. It was the second post-season OT win for the Black Hawks, as the first came at Young Arena, 4-3 over Fargo in Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals.
Jacob Wilson had given the Musketeers a 1-0 lead on a power play goal, three minutes and 52 seconds into the first period. Phillip Knies assisted on the goal that made the Western Conference regular-season champions 5 of 13 on the power play in the Clark Cup Playoffs.
Waterloo tied the game 4 ½ minutes later on Alex Limoges’ first postseason goal. Limoges is no stranger to USHL playoff action as he tallied five goals and five assists a year ago in Tri-City’s run to the Clark Cup championship.
Sioux City’s penalty kill remained unscored upon in the playoffs. There was a crucial situation when Wilson was whistled for a cross-checking infraction with 3:25 left, but the Musketeers’ PK, perfect in 16 chances in five games, remained supreme.
“I thought (Waterloo) played a good team game,” said Varady. “There’s not a lot of ice out there for either team. They were able to find the ice when it counted at the end of the game.
“You look at Waterloo’s game, usually they outshoot their opponents. That’s something we know about and we’re aware of. From our standpoint, we were trying to generate key scoring chances. We didn’t have as many of those as we did in Game 1.”
Sioux City, which was 1-1-1 at Young Arena in the regular season, played without one of its leading scorers, forward Charlie Kelleher, who missed the game because of the flu. Kelleher, who has three goals and two assists thus far in the playoffs, is expected to play Friday night.