By Steve Gunn
Local Sports Journal
MUSKEGON – The Muskegon Lumberjacks are expected to be pretty good this season, mostly due to the presence of 11 veterans on the roster.
But brand new expansion teams with a lot of younger players are proving to be challenging for Muskegon.
First the expansion Bloomington Thunder came to L.C. Walker Arena during the preseason and stunned everyone by beating the Jacks.
Then on Saturday the expansion Madison Capitols erased a two-goal Lumberjack lead and tied the game in the third period.
But the Lumberjacks responded to the challenge and escaped with a victory.
First-year forward David Keefer scored his second goal of the contest at 11:33 mark of the third period, giving the Lumberjacks a 4-3 win in their home opener in front of 1,312 fans.
Muskegon is now 2-0 on the season while Madison is 0-1. The Lumberjacks travel to Ann Arbor Sunday for a 3:30 p.m. contest against the Team USA Under-18 squad.
“We lost to (Bloomington) in the preseason and we won this game in the regular season,” said Lumberjack Coach Todd Krygier. “There’s not going to be a bad team in the league. It’s pretty rare when a team doesn’t show up. I didn’t expect any different.
“We had a lot of good chances and their goaltender played real well. We outshout them 2-to-1. The main thing is we found a way to win.”
The Lumberjacks looked strong in several areas, scoring two power play goals in the penalty-marred contest. They were also effective in penalty killing, stopping four of five Madison opportunities.
They dominated play for the last two periods, and outshot Madison 44-24 in the game. Only the strong play of Madison goalie Darren Smith kept the Capitols in the contest.
But Muskegon also gave up a few soft goals, including a short-handed tally near the end of the first period.
Krygier realizes there are improvements to be made, particularly defensively.
“We have to play better defensively,” he said. “We’re giving up shots we shouldn’t be giving up in the scoring area. It’s just a work in progress.”
Muskegon grabbed a 1-0 lead at 11:54 of the first period with a goal from Griffen Molino, with assists from Matej Paulovic and Mason Jobst. Madison tied it up with 42 seconds remaining in the period with a shorthanded goal from Luke McElhenie.
Defending league scoring champion Matt Iacopelli scored the only goal of the second period, giving the Lumberjacks a 2-1 edge. It was Iacopelli’s second tally of the young season. Molino and Jobst had assists.
Muskegon went up 3-1 at 3:07 of the third period with a goal by Keefer, with assists from Kevin Dineen and Joseph Cecconi.
Madison rallied to tie the score with goals at 3:22 and 7:16 of the final period. The first was a power play goal by Ryan Lohin and the second a four-on-four goal from Guillaume LeClerc.
But Keefer scored the game winner on a rebound of a David Trinkberger shot at the 11:33 mark to secure the win for Muskegon. Trinkberger and Tom Marchin had assists.
Lumberjack goalie Eric Schierhorn got his second win of the season by stopping 21 shots.