Lumberjacks’ offensive struggles continue in 2-1 loss to Sioux Falls

By Steve Gunn
Local Sports Journal

MUSKEGON – Opposing teams haven’t had much luck keeping Zeb Knutson
from scoring this year.

The Muskegon Lumberjacks gave it a good try Saturday, but in the end
they fell short, too.

Knutson, the United States Hockey League’s hottest scorer, notched his
10th goal of the season midway through the third period, giving the
Sioux Falls Stampede a 2-1 come-from-behind victory over the
Lumberjacks in front of 2,122 fans at L.C. Walker Arena.

The loss extended Muskegon’s winless streak to four games. The
Lumberjacks are now 4-3-1 for nine points in the Eastern Conference
standings.

They will host Sioux Falls (6-2) in the second game of the weekend
series tonight at 7:15 p.m.

The Lumberjacks came into the game with a healthy respect for Knutson
and teammates C.J. Franklin and Dennis Kravchenko, all of whom are
among the league’s top 10 scorers.

The home team used strong goaltending, stingy defense and a strong
penalty killing effort to keep the Stampede off the scoreboard for two
periods.

But the third period proved deadly for Muskegon.

Michael Buonincontri scored 5:30 into the final period to tie the game at 1-1.

Two minutes later Knutson finally broke through, intercepting a pass
in the Muskegon zone and beating goalie Jordan Uhelski for the
go-ahead goal.

The Lumberjacks had a chance to tie the game in the final minutes,
after Knutson was called for a hooking penalty with 2:37 left in the
game.

Muskegon pulled Uhelski to gain a two-man advantage, but couldn’t put
the puck in the net.

The Lumberjacks remain hampered by a lack of offense.  They have scored
a total of two goals in three of their last four games, which won’t
get the job done against strong offensive teams like Sioux Falls.

“I think the guys are working hard and giving a good effort – I’m not
upset about that,” Muskegon Coach Todd Kryger said. “But I am upset
with the lack of smarts, not getting the puck deep, not going to the
net consistently for the rebounds, not taking the shots they need to
take.”

Muskegon was also hurt by five penalties.

While the penalty killing unit did a good job for the Lumberjacks,
holding the Stampede scoreless on the power play, the home team played
too much of the contest one man short.

The penalties were particularly harmful in the third period, when the
Lumberjacks were called for two infractions in the last 11 minutes,
crippling their effort to mount a late comeback.

“We took some stupid penalties,” Krygier said. “It was absolutely
ridiculous some of the penalties we took. The other thing is turnovers
in the neutral zone. We have got guys trying to make plays instead of
playing smart hockey and getting the puck deep.

“It all comes down to our inexperience and youth. We’ve got to
continue to teach and coach until we learn how to keep those leads.”

One Lumberjack who has been scoring is forward Matt Iacopelli, who
broke a 0-0 tie with a power play goal just over three minutes into
the second period.

The goal was the third in three games for Iacopelli. Carson Gatt and
Janik Moeser had assists on the tally.

But that was all the offense Muskegon could muster. The Lumberjacks
were outshot 30-23.

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