By Steve Gunn
Local Sports Journal
MUSKEGON – Special teams are pretty important in hockey.
Scoring with a man advantage, and stopping other teams from doing the same, can make or break a team in the standings.
The Muskegon Lumberjacks have been doing both pretty well all season, including Saturday night.
The Jacks were 3-for-3 on the power play, and killed off four of five shorthanded situations, en route to a 4-2 victory over the Team USA Under-17 squad in front of 1,984 fans at L.C. Walker Arena.
Forward Tom Marchin was the hero, scoring the tie-breaking goal on a third period power play and finishing with a three-goal hat trick.
The win was the Lumberjacks’ second in two nights over the Under-17 squad, and sixth victory in the past seven games.
Muskegon is now 16-6-1 on the season, good for 33 points and second place in the USHL’s Eastern Conference standings.
The Lumberjacks came into Saturday’s contest eighth in the 17-team league in power play goals, with 17 in 86 opportunities for 19 percent.
That percentage improved Saturday.
Matej Paulovic scored a power play goal in the first period with only three seconds left on the clock, giving Muskegon a 1-0 lead. Marchin added a power play goal at 15:53 of the second period, giving the Lumberjacks a 2-1 lead.
Marchin added his second power play tally at 5:44 of the third period, putting Muskegon in the lead for good, 3-2.
He capped off his hat trick with an open net goal with 29 seconds left in the contest.
“They won us the game – I’ve been happy with our special teams,” said Lumberjacks Coach Todd Krygier.
The Lumberjacks welcomed back standout goalie Eric Schierhorn, who stopped 37 of 39 shots after missing the prior three games with a minor concussion.
Unfortunately Scherhorn will be headed out of town Sunday when he joins a United States national team at a junior tournament in Canada. Lumberjacks captain Christian Wolanin will also be making the trip.
Neither player will return to action for the Lumberjacks until after Christma
“He looked good,” Krygier said of Schierhorn. “I probably could have played him yesterday, but (backup goalie Michael) Latorella has been playing really well so I have him the extra game.
“We’re going to lose (Schierhorn) and Wolanin so other guys are going to have to step up.”