By Steve Gunn
Local Sports Journal
MUSKEGON – The Muskegon Lumberjacks have been plagued with injuries and illness for the past month, yet they keep winning games.
The “MPM line” of Griffen Molino, Matej Paulovic and Tom Marchin is a big reason for that success.
The three forwards continued their hot hand Friday, accounting for three goals and three assists as the Lumberjacks skated away with a 4-0 victory over the Team USA Under-17 squad at L.C. Walker Arena.
The Lumberjacks gained their fifth victory in six games. They improved to 15-6-1 on the season, good for 31 points and second place in the USHL’s Eastern Conference.
The Jacks will play a rematch Saturday against the Under-17 squad at 7:15 p.m.
Molino, Paulovic and Marchin have been lighting up the scoreboard for the Lumberjacks for weeks.
Since Nov. 7, Paulovic has six goals and six assists, Marchin has five goals and six assists and Molino has three goals and 10 assists.
In that time the Lumberjacks have posted a very respectable 7-3 record.
“We are playing real well,” said Paulovic, who had a goal and two assists Friday. “I like our line. I actually love it. We have been working out together, staying on the ice after practice and doing everything together.”
Lumberjacks Coach Todd Krygier said he created the line about a month ago, after injuries and sickness forced some players out of the lineup.
“I think they enjoy playing together,” Krygier said. “There is chemistry on that line. They’ve had good chemistry for the past month.
“(David) Keefer had been playing with Marchin and Paulovic, then we had to condense our top six forwards. I felt that Molino would add some speed to the line.”
There were other heroes for the Lumberjacks on Friday, as well.
Defending league scoring champion Matheson Iacopelli ended a five-game scoring slump with a goal in the first period. He now has a team leading 12 goals, along with five assists.
“He got his feet moving better,” Krygier said about Iacopelli. “Players’ confidence goes up and down, regardless of whether they are big scorers or not. He has to drive the net more and take more shots. I think he’ll start getting more goals and get back on track.”
Meanwhile, backup goalie Michael Latorella stopped all 24 shots he faced to earn his first USHL shutout. Latorella, playing for injured starter Eric Schierhorn, has now won two straight games.
“He had a terrific game tonight, especially in the first period,” Krygier said. “He’s behind Schierhorn, so when he gets an opportunity to play he’s got to play well, and he’s done that the past two games.”
Molino got things going for the Lumberjacks with goal just 57 seconds into the game, with assists from Marchin and Paulovic.
Iacopelli added his goal at the 18:24 mark, with an assist from Robbie DeMontis, and the Lumberjacks led 2-0 after one period.
Marchin scored at 7:23 of the second period to put the Jacks up 3-0. Paulovic and Molino had assists.
Paulovic added a power play goal at 2:55 of the third period to wrap up the scoring. Joseph Cecconi and Brendan Hamilton assisted on the tally.
Muskegon outshot Team USA 35-24.