Muskegon takes its roll to the road this weekend | News
For the first time since early January, the Muskegon Lumberjacks have earned at least a point in three straight games, but their 2-0-1 record last weekend is significant for reasons beyond the numbers.
The Jacks (14-23-6, 34 points) swept back-to-back games with Indiana on Friday and Saturday, knocking the Ice from second to third in the Eastern Conference in the process. Then they invaded Green Bay Sunday afternoon and grabbed a point from the league-best Gamblers in a shootout defeat.
The trio of promising results showed that Muskegon can handle the USHL’s top competition, and it also proved that an early deficit doesn’t guarantee a Lumberjacks loss. The Black and Gold rallied from 3-0 down after one period Saturday night on the way to a 6-5 shootout victory, followed by a two-goal comeback in Sunday’s third period that earned a key point in the standings.
Saturday’s thrilling contest marked just the second time all season Muskegon was able to win after trailing through 20 minutes, and Green Bay had only surrendered one point this winter when leading after two periods – at least until the Jacks came back Sunday.
The resilience the Lumberjacks demonstrated will serve them well in the season’s final 17 games, as they have climbed to within eight points of the East’s sixth and final playoff berth, currently occupied by the National Team Development Program.
Muskegon has three meetings left with the NTDP, but this weekend will feature a trip to the Hawkeye State, where the Jacks will challenge Western Conference competition for the first time in 17 games.
Coincidentally, the last time Muskegon played a West foe was Jan. 13 when they hosted Des Moines; the Jacks will complete the two-game season series with the Buccaneers (19-22-4, 42 points) Friday night at 8:05 p.m. Eastern time in Iowa’s capital city. The Bucs are just two points ahead of the West’s postseason cutoff point.
The team holding the West’s last position this week is the Sioux City Musketeers (20-25-1, 41 points), leading seventh-place Tri-City by a single point. The Lumberjacks cross swords with the Muskies for the only time this season Saturday night at 8 p.m. Eastern.
Both games this weekend are part of a four-game road swing for Muskegon which will end Wednesday, March 7 in Ann Arbor. Following that tilt, the Jacks will play six of seven games at L.C. Walker Arena.
The Meijer Pregame Show begins 30 minutes prior to every opening faceoff on the radio home of your Lumberjacks, 92.5 The Outlaw (925fmtheoutlaw.com). Voice of the Jacks Matt Gajtka has the play-by-play.
UPCOMING GAMES (Home games in bold; all times Eastern)
- Friday, March 2 @ DES MOINES at 8:05 p.m.
- Saturday, March 3 @ SIOUX CITY at 8 p.m.
- Wednesday, March 7 @ NATIONAL UNDER-18 TEAM at 7 p.m.
- Friday, March 9 vs. CHICAGO at 7:15 p.m. – Dollar Beer/Dollar Hot Dog Night presented by John Morrell. Offer stands from 6-8 p.m.!
- Saturday, March 10 vs. LINCOLN at 7:15 p.m. – Beach Night / Think spring with the Lumberjacks as this popular promotion returns! Call 724-JACK to enter a beach body contest and win great prizes
- With a 4-5-2 record, the Lumberjacks accumulated 10 standings points in February, the most they’ve gained in a month this season. Their previous best was November, when the team split eight games for a total of eight points. March features 12 games, with an even split of six at home and six on the road. The season’s final five matches will take place in April, with only one home contest scheduled.
- Although the Lumberjacks weren’t able to win their third consecutive game Sunday, their current three-game unbeaten streak matches a season high. Muskegon won three in row Oct. 29-Nov. 4 and Nov. 11-18 and also constructed a 1-0-2 run from Dec. 18-Jan. 5. With at least a point Friday in Des Moines, the Jacks will match their longest point streak since joining the USHL, which they set in November 2010.
- After a two-goal weekend, Ryan Lomberg (Maine) continues to lead the Lumberjacks in both goals (15) and points (27), but it’s gotten crowded at the top of Muskegon’s scoring list. Jon Padulo got back on track with three points last week, giving him 28 for the season, while future MSU Spartan Matt DeBlouw’s three points on Saturday put him two behind linemate Padulo. Defenseman Ryan Bullock (Dartmouth) also has 24 points and is the team’s top set-up man with 17 assists.
- Although he was squeezed out for USHL Goaltender of the Week by Des Moines’ Phoenix Copley, third-year league veteran John Keeney was splendid in a pair of starts. The Californian denied 73 of 76 shots for a .960 save percentage as the Jacks topped Indiana 3-1 Friday and held off powerful Green Bay for 65 minutes in a 3-2 shootout loss Sunday.
ALUMNI ON THE ATTACK
- No. 4 Boston University snagged a pair of wins at Vermont last weekend with significant help from defenseman Alexx Privitera, who returned to the ice after missing seven games due to a broken wrist. He dramatically scored the overtime game-winner Saturday after assisting once in a 5-0 wipeout of the Catamounts Friday. The New Jersey native has 10 points (4g, 6a) for the Terriers (20-11-1, 16-8-1 Hockey East), who finish the regular season this weekend.
- Matt Berry finished the regular season as Michigan State’s leading freshman scorer, as his assist last Saturday gave him 18 points (10g, 8a) in 34 games. The Spartans (19-13-4, 14-11-3 CCHA) have the week off before they begin a best-of-three CCHA quarterfinal showdown with the Miami RedHawks March 9-11.
- It was another big weekend for the Niagara forward tandem of Chris Lochner and Issac Kohls, as they combined for a goal (Lochner) and two assists (Kohls) to help the Purple Eagles (15-10-9, 14-6-7 Atlantic Hockey) lock up a first-round bye in the Atlantic Hockey postseason tournament. Niagara will host a to-be-determined opponent in a best-of-three starting March 9. Lochner finished the regular season with 11 goals, tied for the team lead, and Kohls was fifth on the squad – and tops among first-year players – with 19 points.
- Also making noise in Atlantic Hockey was Ryan Misiak’s Mercyhurst Lakers (18-14-4, 15-8-4 AHA), who also earned a week off with a big win Saturday, 5-0 over Canisius. Misiak had an assist, giving him 17 points, eighth-most on the team. The Lakers will host a best-of-three quarterfinal in Erie, Pa., the weekend after next.
BEST HOCKEY TALK ON THE LAKESHORE
JackSixty presented by Cinema Carousel is a weekly hour-long talk show devoted to your Muskegon Lumberjacks Tuesday nights from 6-7 p.m. at Hennessy’s Irish Pub & Restaurant. Located at the corner of Jefferson and Clay Streets in the heart of Muskegon, Hennessy’s plays host as Gajtka and co-host Antonio Bartoli talk hockey with Lumberjacks coaches, players and other featured guests on 98.3 FM WLCS!
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