The season’s finally started and with that is our second-to-last preview. But don’t be fooled because the Waterloo Black Hawks could easily be at the top of the Western Conference standings this season.
Waterloo had a very strong offseason getting some quality talent into the team this year and had proved it a bit during the pre-season with Minnesota commit A.J. Michaelson scoring six points in eight games.
They also opened the season with a 1-0 victory so here’s a look at this year’s team:
Waterloo Black Hawks (2010-11: went 24-29-7, eliminated in the first round of the playoffs)
Coach: P.K. O’Handley
Who’s Gone: Andrew Panzarella (North Dakota), defenseman; Mike Montagna (Vermont), forward; Jacob MacDonald (Cornell), defenseman; Gunnar Hughes (St. Lawrence), forward; Tyson Fulton (Union), forward; C.J. Motte (Ferris State), goaltender; Alex Guptill (Michigan), forward; Blake Thompson (Minnesota), defenseman; Zach Palmquist (Minnesota State-Mankato), defenseman.
Who’s Back: Tyler Zepeda, forward; Jamie Hill (New Hampshire), forward; Jay Williams, goaltender; Eamon McAdam (committed to Penn State), goaltender; A.J. Michaelson (Minnesota), forward; Ryan Papa, forward; Vince Hinostroza (Notre Dame), forward; Max Edson, forward; Ian McCoshen, defenseman; Trevor Owens, defenseman.
Who’s New: Eddie Wittchow (played last season at Burnsville (MN-HS)/drafted by the Florida Panthers), defenseman; Taylor Cammarata (played last season at Shattuck-St. Mary’s (MN-HS)), forward; Tony Cameranesi (played last season at Wayzata (MN-HS)/drafted by Toronto Maple Leafs/committed to Minnesota-Duluth), forward; Joe Rehkamp (played last season at Fargo), forward; Peter Hand (played last season at Chicago/committed to Ohio State), defenseman; Matias Cleland (played last season at Colorado Thunderbirds/committed to New Hampshire), defenseman; Mark Naclerio (played last season at Avon Old Farms (CT-HS)/committed to Brown), defenseman.
What’s Going On: Aside from a season-opening win, there’s actually quite a bit going on with Waterloo these days. The team had arguably the best offseason of any team in the league just based off who they were able to acquire. Getting guys like Cammarata and Wittchow through the draft help. Then they were able to pick up experienced players like Hand and Rehkamp. Also, the Black Hawks come into the year with two players (Wittchow, Cameranesi) who were selected in the recent NHL Draft.
This roster has many believing this could be the team to beat in the West and perhaps the entire league because of how loaded it is. Let’s take a look at the experience the Black Hawks will have. Try having 10 returners and altogether it comes out to 12 players with USHL experience on the roster placing the Black Hawks at the very top when it comes to returning talent. Among that returning talent is Zepeda, the team’s leading scorer from a year ago. But a name that could surprise people might be Hinostroza. He represented the U.S. on its dreadful Ivan Hlinka team where he was one of the lone bright spots due to his scoring and stickhandling. And of course there’s Michaelson, who did spend some time after leaving Apple Valley last season. Michaelson as was earlier mentioned, owned in preseason and had an assist in the season-opening win. This is a kind of “No duh” statement, but Michaelson is a guy to watch on this team. And on a team this talented, he might be THE guy to watch.
When it comes to the new guys, there’s two to watch, one on offense and one on defense. Offensively, surprise, surprise, its Cammarata. When you’re the No. 1 overall pick in the Futures Draft, you tend to come with expectations. He had two assists to open the season and that’s the kind of debut Waterloo would want. Cammarata scored 139 points (71 goals, 68 assists) last season at Shattuck. So yeah, its safe to say that homeboy is expected to be a contributor early and often. Defensively, it is Wittchow. Arguably the best Minnesota high school defenseman last year, he comes to the team already a Panthers draft pick and has been targeted by quite a few colleges. He’s an offensive-defenseman having scored 23 points (9 goals, 14 assists) in 27 games last season for Burnsville. Then when you consider he’s listed as being 6-4 and 200 pounds, one can only think that he could be a monster in this league.
Pretty much Waterloo appears to have all the tools it needs to win the West. Especially considering the West might not be so strong this season. Waterloo, which moved to the West this year, has the kind of talent that most teams in its conference would have a hard time matching. That’s not to say Waterloo is unbeatable, but let’s say this. This is a team that shouldn’t lose often. Anything short of reaching the Western Conference playoffs – barring injuries -would be a disappointment for a team this talented.
Tuesday’s Preview: Fargo Force