The Lumberjacks earn their first victory against the Buccaneers all-time since joining the USHL

 Local Sports Journal

URBANDALE – The Muskegon Lumberjacks were not about to walk away from their three-game Iowa road trip empty-handed as they used their special teams to their advantage that included three power play goals in the third period to oust the host Des Moines Buccaneers by a 5-2 final this afternoon at the Buccaneer Arena to salvage a pair of points on the weekend.  With the win, the Lumberjacks earn their first victory over the Buccaneers since joining the USHL four seasons ago.

The Lumberjacks (14-15-4, 32 points) wasted no time in getting on the scoreboard first to open the game as they snagged a 1-0 lead at the 1:26 mark as Matt Mendelson slid one from between the faceoff circles under the blocker of a sliding Billy Christopoulos (5-9-0) to his left for his 11th of the season that was helped by Cooper Marody and Robbie DeMontis.

Later in the opening frame at the 18:37 mark, the Lumberjacks doubled their lead to 2-0 as Marody found a nice outlet feed from Christopher Dodero at the Des Moines blue line and was all alone on a breakaway in which he slid a forehand under Christopoulos’ glove hand for his 6th of the year that was also helped by Christian Wolanin.

Muskegon took their two-goal lead into the first intermission even though Des Moines was outshooting them by a 15-8 margin.

The Buccaneers (12-14-3, 27 points) used the second period to their advantage in getting back into the game as at the 8:04 mark as Kevin Antipov was coming out of the penalty box, he found an outlet feed from Jarkko Parikka from behind the Buccaneers’ net, was in on a breakaway, and roofed a backhand top shelf over Eric Schierhorn (8-8-1) for his 4th marker of the season that was also aided by Corey Schueneman to cut the deficit to 2-1 Muskegon.

Just under a minute later at the 9:00 mark, a hopping puck would elude a Lumberjacks’ defenseman at the right point allowing Marcel Godbout to stream in all alone on Schierhorn and bury a backhand shot to the short blocker side for his 9th of the season that went unassisted to even the game at 2-2.

The game slid into the final 20 minutes the same tie score as the Lumberjacks closed the gap on the shot battle only getting outshot by a 22-21 margin.

The back-and-forth affair went into the second half of the third period where a penalty assessed to Ruslan Rakhmatov at the 11:15 mark changed the complexion of the game.  Rakhmatov would be called for a five-minute major for boarding and a game misconduct for checking Cullen Hurley from behind leading to a big power play opportunity for Muskegon.

The Lumberjacks ended up making the hosts pay as Matt Iacopelli snapped his team-leading 23rd goal of the season from the right faceoff circle at the 11:40 mark to give the visitors a lead that they didn’t relinquish at 3-2.  Daniel Willett and Trevor Morbeck assisted on the first power play goal of the night from the Lumberjacks.

While still on the same five-minute major power play, Muskegon doubled their lead to 4-2 at the 12:34 mark as Robbie DeMontis found a loose rebound from between the faceoff circles off a shot by Mendelson at the right faceoff circle and riffled his 4th goal of the year home that was also assisted by Marody.

Minutes later at the 14:49 mark, the Lumberjacks found a fortunate bounce to take a 5-2 lead as Christian Wolanin fired a slap shot from the top of the blue line in which the puck shot off the end boards to the right of Christopoulos, hit off his right skate, and crept behind him into the net for his 3rd of the season and second as a Lumberjack that was helped by Mason Jobst and Iacopelli while still on the same major power play opportunity.

No scoring happened the rest of the way as the Lumberjacks ended up edging the Buccaneers in shots for the night by a 34-32 margin.

Eric Schierhorn took the win in net for the Lumberjacks stopping 30 shots for his 8th victory of the season, while Billy Christopoulos took the defeat for the Buccaneers making 29 saves for the game.  The Lumberjacks were led offensively by Cooper Marody with a goal and two assists along with four others in Matt Mendelson, Robbie DeMontis, Matt Iacopelli, and Christian Wolanin with a goal and an assist each.

The Lumberjacks will continue their season-long eight-game road swing next weekend against a pair of Eastern Conference foes in the Youngstown Phantoms on Friday, January 10th at 7:05 followed by a bout with the Indiana Ice on Saturday, January 11th at 7:05 pm.

The next pair of home games for the Lumberjacks will be on Friday, January 24th and Saturday, January 25th against the U.S. National Development Program at 7:15 pm, respectively.  Friday’s game against the Under-17 Team will feature the second and final trading card giveaway of the season along with the return of our “Jacks Win You Win” promotion.  If the Lumberjacks win on Friday, every fan in attendance will receive a $5 Sport Clips gift card.

Saturday’s game against the Under-18 Team will feature our annual “Jacks Fight Cancer” Game presented by Mercy Health Partners.  Fans can contribute to the event in numerous ways in which proceeds will be donated to the Johnson Family Cancer Center, and more information can be found on the Lumberjacks’ Facebook page by searching “Muskegon Lumberjacks.”  Additionally, our “Subway Saturday” promotion returns, where if the Lumberjacks win on Saturday, fans that attend the game can present their ticket stubs at any participating West Michigan Subway location for a buy one six-inch sub, get another six-inch sub of equal or lesser value for free.