Local Sports Journal

INDIANAPOLIS – A close-knit battle between two Eastern Conference rivals turned into a runaway victory for the host Indiana Ice as they topped the Muskegon Lumberjacks 4-1 in USHL action on Saturday.

In a tightly-contested first period, the Lumberjacks (15-16-4, 34 points) were able to get on the board first at the 11:20 mark as Matt Mendelson was able to shake netminder Jason Pawloski (17-4-4) from behind the Ice net with a move and wrap it around to the right through the five-hole for his 13th marker of the season to make it a 1-0 game that was set up by Cooper Marody and Scott Pooley.

The one goal game remained the same going into the first intermission as the Ice held the shot advantage by a 12-6 margin and included the Lumberjacks going empty on four power play opportunities in the first 20 minutes of play.

Early in the second period, the Ice (19-6-5, 43 points) would counter to knot the game even at 1-1 just 26 seconds into the middle frame as right after a penalty to Connor Wood had expired, Denis Smirnov one-timed a shot from the right faceoff circle through Eric Schierhorn’s (9-9-1) five-hole for his 8th of the year that was assisted by Austin Kosack and Scott Conway.

The middle frame went on with the score the same until the waning moments of the period when the Ice took advantage of an unfortunate bounce by the Lumberjacks as a pass from Carson Gatt, who was looking for his teammate behind the Muskegon net, hit the referee in the near side corner and shot right to Mitch Hults who then slid it to Brian Pinho in between the faceoff circles in which he rifled his 9th goal of the season past Schierhorn’s blocker to make it 2-1 in favor of the hosts.

The Ice took their one goal advantage into the second intermission after outshooting the Lumberjacks in the second period by a 17-7 margin.

Indiana continued to force the issue offensively into the third period grabbing a 3-1 lead just 59 seconds into the final frame as Patrick Newell ripped a screen shot of the top of the slot past Schierhorn’s right side low for his 7th of the season that was helped by Vince Pedrie and Smirnov.

Later in the final period at the 14:22 mark, the Ice capped off the scoring on the power play to take a three-goal lead at 4-1 as Smirnov as able to sneak one on the back door to the left of Schierhorn past his outstretched glove for his second of the night and 9th goal of the season that was helped by Dwyer Tschantz and Kosack.

Defensively, the Ice bottled up the Lumberjacks’ offensive attack holding them to a season-low in shots for the game of 15 including only allowing 2 in the third period alone as they took full control in the shot battle by a 48-15 final on the night.

Jason Pawloski earned another victory in net for the hosts only having to stop 14 shots for the game, while Eric Schierhorn battled hard, but took the loss between the pipes for the Lumberjacks making 44 saves on the night.  The Ice were led offensively by Denis Smirnov with his two goals plus one assist along with Austin Kosack chipping in with two assists of his own.  The Lumberjacks fall to 2-3-0 against the Ice this season with three regular season meetings left.