By Steve Gunn
Local Sports Journal
MUSKEGON – The Muskegon Lumberjacks have been living and dying by one goal decisions all season.
Unfortunately it’s been more on the dying side lately.
The Cedar Rapids Roughriders broke a tie with two goals in the third period Saturday, then hung on for a 3-2 victory over the Lumberjacks in front of 1,856 fans at L.C. Walker Arena.
The loss was the Lumberjacks’ third in a row and left their record at 6-6-2 on the season. It also dropped them to fifth place in the United States Hockey League’s Eastern Conference standings, one point behind Cedar Rapids.
Eleven of the Lumberjacks’ 14 games this season have been decided by one goal. In their prior two games they lost 6-5 at Omaha and 5-4 in Dubuque.
“There are positives, too,” said Muskegon coach Todd Krygier. “We’re not far off. We’re playing good hockey teams and staying in games. But one little breakdown, one little mental lapse can cost you.
“Everybody’s got to pull together and get more determined and more focused. We’re in the right position a lot but we’re not engaged. We’ve got to get engaged.”
The loss went to Muskegon goalie Eric Schierhorn. But there was only so much he could do for his team.
He stopped more than his share of shots during the first two periods, allowing the Lumberjacks to stay in the game for the entire contest.
But his teammates had too many turnovers in their own end and struggled to clear the puck.
That allowed Cedar Rapids’ Casey Jerry and Andrew Poturalski to score close range goals within the first six minutes of the third period, giving the visitors their margin of victory.
“We’re not doing some things defensively we need to do,” Krygier said. “There’s basic stuff that has to be taken care of. We work on a lot of stuff but guys aren’t paying attention and executing. It’s gets frustrating. You have to execute.”
Cedar Rapids scored the only goal of the first period when Nick Master notched a power play goal. The Roughriders outshot Muskegon 12-6 in the period.
The Lumberjacks pulled even less than a minute into the second period when Matt Mendelson tipped a shot from the point past Cedar Rapids goalie Danny Tirone.
The goal was Mendelson’s third in the past two games. Cullen Hurley and Scott Pooley had assists.
Muskegon had a 13-8 edge in shots in the second period, but failed to convert on two power play opportunities after Cedar Rapids penalties.
Cedar Rapids took a 3-1 lead early in the third period on the goals by Jerry and Poturalski. Muskegon’s Trevor Morbeck notched a goal with 6:16 remaining to make the game close, but that was all the Lumberjacks could muster.
The Lumberjacks pulled their goalie for an extra attacker in the closing minutes, but had to put Schierhorn back on the ice with less than a minute to play when they were whistled for too many men on the ice.
Muskegon returns to action Wednesday at home with a rematch against Cedar Rapids.