Local Sports Journal

YOUNGSTOWN – In their first 2013-14 regular season matchup, the Muskegon Lumberjacks and Youngstown Phantoms battled it out looking to see whose special teams would come up big when it mattered.  In the end, it ended up being the host Phantoms’ power play that proved to be the difference maker notching a pair of man advantage tallies to outduel the Lumberjacks tonight by a 5-3 final tonight at the Covelli Centre.

Just 1:22 into the game, the Lumberjacks (8-7-3, 19 points) were able to notch the first goal of the night as Matt Iacopelli wristed his team-leading 11th goal of the season past Colin DeAugustine (4-2-0) while parked in the low slot off a nice feed from Robbie DeMontis from behind the Youngstown net to make it 1-0.  Scott Pooley also received a helper on the Iacopelli tally.

The game slid into the middle of the first period when the Phantoms (6-10-1, 13 points) were able to knot the game at 1-1 at the 13:03 mark as Zach Evancho tipped-in his second goal of the season past Jordan Uheski’s (4-3-3) glove side off a shot from Josh Melnick from just outside the right faceoff circle.

Just 18 seconds later, the host Phantoms quickly snagged a 2-1 lead at the 13:21 mark as Maxim Letunov found a loose rebound from between the faceoff circles in the high slot and slid a backhand through Uhelski’s five-hole that was helped by Kyle Mackey and Kiefer Sherwood.

Youngstown continued to hold the one goal lead into the first intermission and also outshot the Lumberjacks by a 15-6 margin through the first 20 minutes.

During the early portions of the second period, Muskegon was able to take advantage of some penalty trouble from Youngstown and even the game at 2-2 at the 3:21 mark with a five-on-three power play goal from Blake Christensen from between the faceoff circles for his first goal as a Lumberjack and third of the season that was helped by Connor Hurley and Iacopelli.

However, the host Phantoms were able to counter and use their power play to muscle their way to a two-goal lead at 4-2 by the 12:14 mark of the middle frame.  Beginning at the 9:05 mark, Letunov notches his second of the night and sixth of the season off a rebound at the top of the Lumberjacks’ goal crease that was aided by J.J. Piccinich and Sherwood.

A few minutes later, Letunov earned the hat trick back on the man advantage for his seventh of the season with a one-time goal on the back door to the side of Uhelski firing one home under the left pad that was set up by Kyle Connor along with Josh Melnick.

Youngstown took that two-goal lead into the second intermission while still leading the shot battle by a 27-14 margin.

In the third period, Muskegon continued to fight back with their special teams coming up golden at the 5:48mark as a shoot from the right point by Matt Iacopelli went over top of the net, hit a sanction, and popped out the back door while hitting Cooper Marody’s body into the net for his third of the season to make it a 4-3 game.  Matt Mendelson also helped on the Marody tip-in goal.

However, that is all the offense the Lumberjacks would have on the night as DeAugustine stood tall between the pipes for the Phantoms as Uhelski was pulled for the extra attacker with around 45 seconds remaining to make it a five-on-five after Robbie DeMontis was called for hooking with 58 seconds left in regulation.

With two seconds to go, Connor laced an empty net marker for his sixth goal of the season that was aided by Truman Reed and Piccinich to cap off the home victory.  Youngstown outshot Muskegon for the night by 37-25 margin.

Colin DeAugustine stopped 22 shots on the night to earn his fourth victory of the season, while Jordan Uhelski made 33 saves for the Lumberjacks.  Youngstown’s offense was led by Maxim Letunov’s hat trick along with Kyle Connor (one goal and one assist) and Kiefer Sherwood (two assists) with two points each. Muskegon was led offensively by Matt Iacopelli’s goal and two assists.  Six different Lumberjacks notched at least a point in tonight’s road defeat.