The Waterloo Black Hawks are wrapping up their first season in the United States Hockey League’s Western Conference, but the change of scenery has led to their first trip to the Clark Cup Finals in four years. The Black Hawks open the best-of-5 Clark Cup championship series Saturday night against the Green Bay Gamblers and veteran goalie Ryan McKay.

Waterloo coach P.K. O’Handley says McKay is one of the best that’s ever been in the league. The Black Hawks last reached the Clark Cup Finals four years ago and they enter this series feeling like the underdog. He says his guys want to win and that’s the beauty of sports, the underdog can win such challenges.

Five players on O’Handley’s team have scored at least 10 points during this year’s playoff run, and team veterans Jamie Hill and Tyler Zepeda are atop the leaderboard. Each is in his third year in the Cedar Valley.

The Black Hawks have beaten all three Nebraska teams in the USHL on the way to the championship series, and done so in less than a month. O’Handley says his team got used to making the road trip through western Iowa. “We’ve spent a little time on I-80 and I can along with every else on our team can tell you about the truck stops and the road construction,” O’Handley says.

Games 1 and 2 in the series will be Saturday and Sunday evening in Green Bay. Waterloo hosts Game 3 next Friday night.

By Austin Draude, KLMJ, Hampton