By Steve Gunn
Local Sports Journal

MUSKEGON – Most high school graduates leaving home for the first time get pretty homesick after awhile.

It happens when they move right across town, or enroll in some college a few hours away.

David Trinkberger

David Trinkberger

David Trinkberger recently left the nest for the first time in his life, but his travels took him a bit farther than most. He grew up in his native Germany, graduated from high school earlier this year, and is now playing hockey for the Muskegon Lumberjacks.

Amazingly, the 18-year-old reports no homesickness. He’s says he’s adjusted to the United States and Muskegon just fine.

He likes the town, his host family and his teammates. He already speaks very clear English, and is taking classes to become even more fluent.

Most importantly, he’s fit in very well with Lumberjacks on the ice, scoring two goals and two assists in the first five games, leaving him tied for second in points on the team.

Trinkberger says he’s surprised about his early scoring outburst. After all he’s a defenseman, and they’re not generally known for putting up a lot of points.

But his past record betrays him. Trinkberger has always been an offensive defenseman.

In five seasons of junior hockey in Germany, he totaled an impressive 55 goals and 88 assists. He posted his biggest numbers in 2011-12, when he notched 19 goals and 20 assists.

“I like skating a lot and joining the rush,” said Trinkberger, who lives with J.R. and Vicki Swanson of Norton Shores. “I had a couple of opportunities here so far and I took them. When I see an open shot, I take it.”

Trinkberger’s quick adjustment to the USHL has been impressive, considering his own comparison of junior hockey in the U.S. and Germany.

“It’s not a comparison,” said Trinkberger, who spent time playing for the German national Under-18 team. “The league (in Germany) is way worse. We have much bigger rinks in Germany, so the game is not as fast or physical. The skill level and tactics here are so much different. This is so much more like a system you would play if you were a professional.”

Muskegon Coach Todd Krygier says he loves having a defenseman like Trinkberger who can put the puck in the net.

“When we watched him play, he was good defensively, but he was not afraid to jump up into the play,” Krygier said. “He gets excited about that. That’s the type of player he is.

“After last year one of our objectives was to find some defensemen who aren’t afraid to step up and get in the play. That’s one of the reasons we drafted (Trinkberger) and Ryker Killins. We knew they would get involved offensively. It’s not only nice to have, it’s essential.”

Lumberjack update

After a perfect 3-0 start to the season, the Lumberjacks dropped two games in Cedar Rapids last weekend, 4-3 on Friday and 6-0 on Saturday.

The Jacks are tied for first place in the USHL Eastern Conference standings with six points. They play Friday and Saturday night in Lincoln against the Stars, then return home Saturday, Oct. 18 for a game against the Chicago Steel.

Roughriders are unhospitable hosts

For fans who were upset by the Lumberjacks’ losses last weekend in Cedar Rapids (especially the Saturday game, when they gave up two shorthanded goals), there is some comforting news.

For starters, the Jacks have never fared well in Cedar Rapids. They have a 2-9-1 all-time record in the Roughriders’ building, and neither win came in regulation. One was in overtime and the other was in a shootout.

Meanwhile, Krygier thinks his team will benefit from the two-loss weekend. He believes the players were a bit too high after their 3-0 start and underestimated the Roughriders.

“I don’t think we respected Cedar Rapids like we needed to,” said Krygier, who added that he thinks the Roughriders will be an elite team in the league this year. “We’ve been working on things this week that need to be corrected, and part of that is readjusting our attitudes. We need to realize that any team in this league can be beaten on any night. I don’t care who the team is what their record is.”

Krygier says the players understand that now, and he doesn’t think their confidence was affected by the losses.

“We just had to recalibrate and get refocused,” Krygier said. “I know something good will come out of the weekend. We’ve had a really good week of practice. We’ve got good guys who always play really hard. I have never questioned their work ethic. They worked hard (over the weekend). They just didn’t work smart.”

One other promising note – the Lumberjacks play in Lincoln Friday and Saturday night, and they were 2-0 against the Stars last season and 2-0 in recent preseason games.

The joys of long road trips, according to Krygier

Just looking at the Lumberjacks early season schedule is kind of exhausting.

On opening weekend they traveled to Ann Arbor on Friday, played home on Saturday night, then returned to Ann Arbor for a Sunday afternoon game.

But that was nothing compared to the current road trip. The drive to Cedar Rapids, Iowa last weekend took about seven hours. The drive to Lincoln, Nebraska this weekend will kill about 13 hours.

That’s a lot of time to pass sitting on a bus. But Krygier says he actually enjoys that kind of travel.

“That’s the nature of this league,” said Krygier, who played in the National Hockey League and experienced the advantages of flying to road games. “Travel is not a big deal for us. We have a long trip tomorrow, but everyone travels a lot in this league. It might be a little worse for Eastern Conference teams (like Muskegon), but it’s all part of junior hockey.

“A lot of times it can be very relaxing, sort of a peaceful time. I get to have somebody driving me and I can get work done. There are no airports, no security to worry about. The bus will stop when I say stop and go when I say go. I really don’t mind it at all.”

There’s no word on whether the players share their coach’s fondness for long bus trips.