By Steve Gunn
Local Sports Journal
MUSKEGON – The Muskegon Lumberjacks started advertising ticket sales for the Clark Cup playoffs Friday night.
If the team keeps playing like it did against Indiana, any fans that fork out the money will soon be demanding a refund.
The Lumberjacks played perhaps their worst game in months, giving up three power play goals and being outshot by an outrageous 43-15 margin en route to a humiliating 5-0 loss to the Ice in front of 2,344 fans at L.C. Walker Arena.
It was only the fourth time the Lumberjacks have been shut out all season. Their highlight of the night came in the first period, when Chase Hatcher outpointed Indiana’s Mike Preston in a fist fight.
The loss brought an ugly end to Muskegon’s six game winning streak, which had brought them back from the depths of the standings into a tie for the final playoff spot.
The Lumberjacks are now 26-23-4. Indiana, the first place team in the Eastern Conference, improved to 37-9-7.
The playoffs are still a possibility for the Lumberjacks, but only if they play a heck of a lot better than they did against Indiana.
Muskegon has 56 points in the standings, and ended the game remained tied for fourth place with Chicago and Green Bay with seven games left.
The Lumberjacks return to action tonight at home against Team USA, then visit Indiana on Sunday.
Some might use the excuse that the Lumberjacks were playing Indiana, clearly one of the best teams in the league. But that argument doesn’t hold water, since the Jacks split six games with the Ice earlier in the season.
The question now is whether the ugly defeat will destroy the confidence the team had gained over the past few weeks.
“I think maybe we took things a little for granted,” said Muskegon coach Todd Krygier. “I was a little worried coming into tonight because of how good Indiana is, but I expected us to respond better. We’re a far better team now than we were earlier in the year when we beat them.
“I said coming into the weekend that we needed to win two of three. Now all we can do is set the reset button. This makes getting a win the next two nights mandatory.”
Indiana took control in the first period with goals from Jacob Pritchard, Scott Conway and Dwyer Tschantz. The Ice outshot the Lumberjacks 11-4 in the first session.
Muskegon switched goalies after the period, going from starter Eric Schierhorn to Jordan Uhelski, but it made little difference.
The Ice finished things off in the second period with goals by Jason Salvaggio and Patrick Newell. Indiana outshot Muskegon 19-2 in the second period and 13-9 in the scoreless third.
“I give credit to Indy,” said Krygier. “They played hard, won the races to the puck and controlled the play. You can’t stand around against the best team in the Eastern Conference and hope to win.”