Mr. Clutch, Paul Cotter, did it again for the Lincoln Stars.
Cotter scored 3 minutes, 10 seconds into overtime to lift the Stars to a 3-2 victory over the Waterloo Black Hawks on Saturday in Waterloo, Iowa, in the opening game of their best-of-five USHL playoff series.
It was the second straight game that Cotter scored the game-winner in overtime, after helping Lincoln to a 5-4 victory over Sioux Falls on Thursday to send the Stars into the Clark Cup Western Conference semifinals.
“Big-time players coming through when we really needed them,” Stars coach Cody Chupp said on the postgame radio show. “We will definitely take the win and fine tune our game and hope to be better (Sunday).”
Cotter was not the only player Chupp alluded to after the game, noting how good Derek Schaedig was in net. Schaedig earned his third straight postseason win after stopping 40 of 42 shots from a high-powered Waterloo offense. The Black Hawks had three of the top six USHL point leaders in the regular season.
“I thought Derek Schaedig was the difference in the game tonight,” Chupp said. “We struggled to find our game through a majority of it and it's a huge credit to Waterloo and the great team that they are, but they made it very difficult on us all night long.”
After a scoreless 20 minutes of play, Waterloo flexed its offensive muscle by tallying two goals in a span of 35 seconds in the early minutes of the period.
Ethan Johnson scored 2:02 into the second period and Garrett Wait added the Black Hawks' second goal at the 2:37 mark.
Ashton Calder answered the bell for Lincoln, just 13 seconds after Waterloo took the 2-0 lead.
In a familiar situation, Lincoln trailed in the third period only to have Josiah Slavin score his first power-play goal of the season to help force overtime.
Lincoln and Waterloo will meet in Game 2 of the series at 5 p.m Sunday. Chupp expects Waterloo to be ready.
“Hopefully we learned our lesson,” he said. “We need to expect a push from Waterloo (Sunday), we need to be prepared for it and we need to find a way to embrace and get to our game sooner.”