By Ron Rop
Local Sports Journal
It’s a tough job being a backup goaltender at any level of hockey.
Muskegon Lumberjack Jordan Uhelski has filled that role admirably for the United States Hockey League club through the first third of the regular season.
On Saturday night, Uhelski, making just his fourth appearance of the season, was stellar in posting a 3-0 shutout victory over the Cedar Rapids Roughriders. The outcome gave the teams a split of the two-game weekend series at L.C. Walker Arena.
“It’s a great feeling,” said Uhelski, who made 23 saves and improved his record to 3-1. “I work hard in practice and the team played really well in front of me. I owe the shutout to them. They played well in front of me and I just do what I can.”
Uhelski, who made his first Lumberjack appearance on Oct. 12, then sat on the bench and watched as Kevin Lindskoug played 11 straight games. Uhelski played again on Nov. 16 and Nov. 23 and then on Saturday night.
“It’s definitely been a little bit of an adjustment,” Uhelski said. “But talking with my goalie coach, Manny Legace, he definitely has kind of given me advice on keeping it light and keeping it loose.
“When you’re called, you give it your all,” said Uhelski, who has been reaping the benefits of the Jacks’ recent hire of Legace, a former Detroit Red Wing.
“He is passing down his wisdom to me and I am trying to absorb it like a sponge,” Uhelski said.
Uhelski got all the offensive support he needed at 4:14 of the middle period when Joe Cox scored his seventh goal of the season. Patrick Koudys and Cameron Darcy assisted.
The insurance goal came at 8:06 of the third period when Riley Alferd scored his third of the season. Mason Jobst and Carter Foguth were credited with assists.
With time the final minutes running down, the Roughriders pulled goaltender Steve Michalek in favor of an extra skater. That strategy backfired when Cullen Hurley scored from near the red line in the game’s final seconds. Jobst also assisted on that red lighter.
“After we scored that third goal, it (the shutout) kind of set in that we definitely had the win,” said Uhelski. “That’s when I started getting the butterflies.”
“Great effort,” Lumberjack coach Jim McKenzie said. “It’s great to see Jordan get rewarded because he works hard every day.”