By Steve Gunn
Local Sports Journal
MUSKEGON – The Muskegon Lumberjacks have finally demonstrated they can win a game when they don’t score first.
Muskegon came into Saturday’s game with an odd trend – a 4-0 record when they scored first, and an 0-3 mark when they didn’t.
Chicago scored first Saturday and led after one period, but the Lumberjacks fought back.
David Keefer settled the issue with a tie-breaking goal at 4:04 of the third period, giving Muskegon a 4-3 victory over the Chicago Steel in front of 1,438 fans at L.C. Walker Arena.
Muskegon is now 5-3-0 on the season, good for 10 points and first place in the United States Hockey League’s Eastern Conference.
The Steel dropped to 3-3-1.
“We didn’t have a lot of jump in the first period, but I don’t think we played poorly,” said Lumberjacks Coach Todd Krygier. “Overall I think we did a good job of fighting back.”
Krygier acknowledged that his team still has too many defensive lapses, which led to several Chicago goals. But he said the defense improved as the game wore on.
“There were defensive breakdowns for both teams,” he said. “We ended up having one less breakdown than they did. In the first period I thought we were a little too tentative on defense and gave them some scoring opportunities.”
The Lumberjacks started slow, and couldn’t manage a shot on goal in the first five minutes of the game.
Chicago’s Frederik Olofsson scored the only goal of the first period at 11:23, when his shot was initially stopped by Muskegon goalie Eric Schierhorn, then somehow trickled in.
The Lumberjacks came to life midway through the second period, getting two quick goals from Christian Wolanin (8:09) and Matheson Iacopelli (8:30). Steve Merl and Cooper Marody assisted on the second goal.
Iacopelli’s goal was his team-leading seventh of the season.
The Steel tied the score 2-2 at 12:43 of the second with another goal by Olofsson.
Jack Rowe put Muskegon back on top 3-2 with a power play tally at 14:58 of the second, with assists from Keefer and Wolanin. Chicago’s Connor Murphy scored at 17:28 to tie the game 3-3.
Keefer’s game winner came when he took a pass from Joseph Cecconi, skated up the middle and scored with a wrist shot from the slot.
The Lumberjacks outshot Chicago 34-32. Schierhorn got the win with 29 saves.