By Ron Rop
Local Sports Journal
Muskegon Lumberjacks’ coach Jim McKenzie has been so focused on the task at hand that he didn’t realize what the next several weeks holds for his hockey team.
Saturday night’s 4-1 victory over the visiting Youngstown Phantoms was the final home game for the Jacks for nearly a month. That means the Jacks will be taking their show on the road for the next seven games.
In fact, McKenzie had to reference the schedule taped to the wall of his office to verify that, yes indeed, his team will be spending some time on the road before returning home March 15 against Team USA.
“Shows you how far ahead on the schedule I look,” McKenzie said. “Seven on the road, it’s kind of like the beginning of January, but I guess not quite to that extreme, but the same idea.”
So on the final Saturday night home game for a while, McKenzie liked what he saw. Goals by Christian Heil in the first period, Adam Gilmour and Chad McDonald in the second period and an empty netter by Brian Morgan made a winner of goaltender Jordan Uhelski.
“It was a good win, the boys played hard,” McKenzie said. “We killed some penalties, it was a really good game, to be honest. There was lots of hitting, it was back and forth and their battling us just like we’re battling Green Bay to see who is going to be finish where.
“They’ve been playing really good,” McKenzie said.
Both teams came into the contest with a three-game winning streak. And Muskegon made it four straight with the next seven games on the road, starting next Saturday night in Youngstown.
Muskegon goaltender Jordan Uhelski, who posted a shutout in his last outing last weekend against Indiana, was sparkling in the Jacks net again. He stopped 29-of-30 shots.
“Jordan played well, I mean, he’d probably want that one (goal) back, to be honest, based on the way he’s played,” McKenzie said. “He made the saves when we needed them and I thought we kept them to the outside, but there were still some dangerous chances and he did a great job stepping up for us.”
Youngstown scored the game’s first goal, a power-play tally by Nathan Walker. But that would be the only goal Uhelski would allow.
Muskegon did put the puck into the net two other times, but both were disallowed for different reasons. The first was ruled no goal because referee Sean Fernandez ruled the goal was knocked off its moorings before the puck entered the net.
The second, at 16:26 of the third period, Fernandez, with help from his linesmen, determined that Cullen Hurley used a kicking motion to direct the puck into the net.
Muskegon improved to 26-14-8 for 60 points in the Eastern Conference. Youngstown dropped to 23-20-0 for 46 points.