Lumberjacks wrap up home-opening weekend with a thud, falling 7-0 to Team USA

By Steve Gunn and Dave Hart
LocalSportsJournal.com

MUSKEGON – It’s still very early in the Muskegon Lumberjacks’ season.

But based on the results so far, fans have to be wondering about the team’s offensive potential.

The Jacks wrapped up their home-opening weekend with a thud on Saturday, dropping a 7-0 decision to the Team USA Under-18 squad. They also lost their home opener to Chicago on Friday.

The loss dropped Muskegon to 1-3 on the season, which itself is not that big of a deal.

But the lack of scoring is worrisome.

The shutout was the second for the Lumberjacks this season. They were outscored 10-2 this weekend, and 13-5 in their four games.

The lack of production was particularly curious this weekend, because the Jacks outshot Chicago 36-22 on Friday and Team USA 34-29 on Saturday.

“We’re not going to the net without the puck,” said Lumberjacks Coach John LaFontaine. “We are not going to those tough areas, taking away the goalie’s eyes, and fighting for the puck in those tough areas. If you don’t do that you make the goalies look good. We have to play harder without the puck.

“If we weren’t getting chances and weren’t getting shots and opportunities, I would be more concerned. Now we have to make the chances more opportunistic, and not make it easier on the goalie.”

The game went south for the Lumberjacks from the opening minutes, and the situation never improved.

Team USA grabbed a 4-0 lead after one period on two goals apiece by Joel Farabee and Oliver Wahlstrom.

That was enough to ruin the debut of rookie backup goalie Matt Vernon, who made his first start of the season but was pulled in favor of starter Adam Brizgala after one period.

“It was frustrating in the first period,” LaFontaine said. “We weren’t ready for the faceoffs, we weren’t ready to play a game. You have to have better starts. It was disappointing we didn’t come out better as a team and help Matt more, help him not have to face a lot of odd-man rushes and things that are not going to give him confidence in his first start.”

The second period was scoreless, but Team USA poured it on in the third, collecting goals from Wahlstrom, Jake Pivonka and Connor Caponi.

The Lumberjacks will return to action next Saturday with a road game against the Youngstown Phantoms.

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