Lumberjacks hold off late Youngstown comeback, skate away with a 5-2 victory

By Steve Gunn and Dave Hart
LocalSportsJournal.com

MUSKEGON – The Muskegon Lumberjacks were in desperate need of goals, and they came at opportune times on Saturday night.

The Jacks went into their home game against the Youngstown Phantoms with only nine goals in six games, the fewest in the United States Hockey League.

They hadn’t scored more than three goals in any one game.

But they woke up against the Phantoms.

They grabbed a three-goal lead after two periods, allowed Youngstown to creep back within one, then scored two-empty netters near the end to grab a 5-2 victory in front of 1,577 fans at L.C. Walker Arena.

Lumberjacks captain Anthony Del Gaizo led the way with two goals and an assist.

Jachym Kondelik battles for the puck against Youngstown’s Julian Kislin. Photo/Jason Goorman

Two first-year Jacks – Mateo Pekar and Bray Crowder – contributed the game-clinching empty-netters with their first goals of the season.

The victory avenged the Jacks’ Friday night loss to Youngstown and improved their record to 3-4 on the season.

The Lumberjacks will return to action next Friday and Saturday at home against Tri-City.

“You see us coming in spurts,” said Muskegon Coach John LaFontaine about his team’s offensive production. “We actually had a lot better chances last night, but tonight when we did have them we had someone in front of the net and were better around the net.”

The Lumberjacks opened the scoring at the 14:22 mark of the first period with a power play goal from Del Gaizo. He was assisted by Emilio Petterson and Blake Evennou.

Muskegon increased its lead 4:46 into the second period on a goal from defenseman Clayton Phillips. Del Gaizo and Colby Bukes each notched an assist on the tally.

Muskegon’s Bray Crowder gets ready to wrist a shot for an open-net goal. Photo/Jason Goorman

The Lumberjacks added another second-period goal at the 8:40 mark from Del Gaizo, his second of the game, and Muskegon had a 3-0 advantage at the second intermission.

But things got scary in the third period.

The Jacks dodged a bullet early when they managed to hold Youngstown scoreless when the visitors had a 5-on-3 power play for just over a minute.

But then Youngstown scored two short-handed goals, by Eric Esposito and Max Ellis, to pull within 3-2 with about 10 minutes remaining.

Youngstown gambled by pulling its goalie for an extra attacker with 2:15 left in the game, and it cost the visitors dearly.

Pekar scored his empty-nettter with 1:23 left to put the Jacks up by two, then Crowder finished things off with another empty-net goal with 55 seconds remaining.

“We gave up two shorthanded goals with a 3-0 lead, and both were kind of like ‘Opps. what are we doing’,” LaFontaine said. “But the guys stood firm and blocked shots and did what we had to do.

“You don’t expect to give up goals when your on the power play.”

Muskegon outshot Youngstown 25-24. Jacks goalie Adam Brizgala got the win after holding the Phantoms scoreless for two periods-plus.

 

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