By Ron Rop
Local Sports Journal

The effort was there and there were ample shots on goal, but when it came to scoring goals, the Muskegon Lumberjacks just didn’t finish enough.

The Jacks began a key four-game stretch against the second-place Green Bay Gamblers with a 4-3 setback at L.C. Walker on Friday night.

The victory pushes the Gamblers to 74 points, four ahead of the Jacks, with three games to play. The outcome means the Jacks must win the final three games against the Gamblers if they hope to overcome them for second place in the Eastern Conference standings.

“They are a dangerous team and have some guys who can put the puck in the net,” Muskegon coach Jim McKenzie said. “They don’t need many chances to do it. They didn’t have many and took advantage when they did.”

The Lumberjacks came out strong and scored the game’s first goal, but only after killing off two penalties. That seemed to give the Jacks some momentum, but then the Gamblers answered with two goals and took a 2-1 advantage in the first intermission.

That goal came off the stick of Zach Saar, who was being hooked on the play, yet got off a shot that ended up in the back of the net. Christian Heil and Carter Foguth assisted on the goal at 8:49.

“I loved our start, I loved our energy, I loved how physical we were,” McKenzie said. “Regardless of the penalties, it’s a great way to play and I loved the fact we never let up right to the end.”

Goals by Kevin Irwin and Nicholas Schilkey put the Gamblers up with goals 1:15 apart.

The lead grew to 3-1 in the second period on a goal by Jordan Gross at 16:17. Green Bay took that lead into the final period.

The Gamblers built the lead to 4-1 at 3:45 of the final period on another goal by Schilkey, his 30th of the season.

Muskegon made a game of it when Cameron Darcy scored the first of his two third-period goals.

At 4:37, Darcy cruised down the left win, circled behind the net and stepped out front. He spun and fired a shot that hit Gambler goaltender Tony Kujava and dropped into the net.

Less than 7 minutes later, Darcy tipped a shot into the net off the stick of defenseman Rasmus Bengtsson. That made it 4-3 with 8:32 remaining.

Muskegon continued to press the issue in the final minutes and was even rewarded with a power play, but that did not result in a tying goal.

“The guys kept coming, kept coming, it’s just a matter of finishing,” McKenzie said.

Muskegon had a 44-25 advantage in shots on goal. Jacks’ goaltender Kevin Lindskoug stopped 21-of-25. His record dropped to 23-17-6 on the season.

Kujava stopped 41-of-44 shots. He was backed up on Friday night by Mona Shores goaltender Nate Rabbitt.

Muskegon hosts Green Bay at 7:15 Saturday night in the final home game of the regular season.