By Ron Rop
Local Sports Journal

Can you label the seventh game of a 64-game regular season as a “showdown?”

While it may be a bit early to start using that term, this Friday’s USHL game pitting the Muskegon Lumberjacks and the Chicago Steel will certainly give the Jacks a gauge on how they are doing in the early going.

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Muskegon Lumberjacks Max Shuart has three goals through six games.

Gametime is 7:15 p.m. at L.C. Walker Arena.

Muskegon brings a 5-0-1 record into the contest while Chicago is 5-1. The Steel’s lone loss came on Oct. 5 at the hands of the Jacks down in Chicago. That score was 3-1.

The Jacks’ 11 points put them atop the overall league league. That would be a first for the 3-year-old franchise.

Muskegon’s start is a 180-degree turnaround from two previous starts to the season. In the Jacks’ inaugural season, they were 2-3-1 through six games. Last year, it was 1-5.

There are several reasons for the sudden turnaround.

* Goaltending. Kevin Lindskoug has been solid between the pipes in his four appearances. A 3-0-1 record is just part of the story. His 1.47 goals-against-average and his .955 save percentage are among the best in the league. Hayden Stewart and Jordan Uhelski also were solid in their one outing this season.

* Penalty minutes. In this case, it would be the lack of penalty minutes. The Jacks are concentrating on playing hockey and staying out of the penalty box. The Jacks are 12th in the league, so far, as opposed to the last two years when they occupied one of the top spots and were often more focused on the rough stuff than the game.

* Good starts. In six games, the Jacks have allowed one goal in the first period. They’ve scored seven. Getting a lead in hockey is always important, thus the stat, first goal. Muskegon has scored the game’s first five times.

* Balance. Scoring has been spread around quite evenly thus far. Five players – Chad McDonald, Ben Foster, Max Shuart, Tyler Heinonen and Chris Leibinger – each have three goals. That leads the team. In all, 12 players have at least one goal. Two of Heinonen’s three goals are game-winners.

Jacks win you win

Friday’s game is a special “Jacks Win You Win” night.  If the Jacks win, every fan in attendance will win a $5 gift card from Sport Clips.  The first Friday game of each month will be “Jacks Win You Win.”