By Dave Hart
Local Sports Journal
MUSKEGON – A team that can bounce back from an ugly loss usually has success throughout the season.
The Muskegon Lumberjacks were defeated Friday night by the Dubuque Fighting Saints 6-3 in a game with conference positioning at stake.
Saturday was a different story as the Jacks bounced back with a three-goal second period and held on to defeat the Fighting Saints 3-2 in a penalty-filled game witnessed by 2,727 spectators at the L.C. Walker Arena.
The victory makes the Lumberjacks 7-0-0 in games after losing their previous game by three or more goals.
“I don’t like to lose and we better bounce back,” said Lumberjacks coach Todd Krygier. “I am really proud of how the guys played. I was pretty disappointed and frustrated after last night’s loss.”
The Lumberjacks are now 24-12-3, good for 51 points and second place in the USHL’s Eastern Conference, three points ahead of third-place Dubuque and five points behind first-place Cedar Rapids.
Muskegon survived a scoreless first period where Dubuque held the momentum for most the period and outshot the Jacks 16-9. The Fighting Saints also have five power-play chances.
Matheson Iacopelli opened the scoring at 3:09 of the second period giving the Jacks the 1-0 lead. Griffen Molino and Matej Paulovic picked up the assists on the goal.
Muskegon’s Trevor Hamilton gave the Jacks a 2-0 advantage after taking a pass from Mark Petaccio and swatting the puck in midair and behind Fighting Saints goaltender Jacob Nehama. That goal came at 8:48 of the second period. Jacks goaltender Eric Schierhorn also picked up an assist.
Petaccio continued the second-period onslaught for the Jacks by scoring on a rebound from a Christian Wolanin shot at 12:50 of the middle period. Tom Marchin was also credited with an assist.
Dubuque’s Nathan Sucese cut the deficit to 3-1 on a power-play goal just 13 seconds into the third period.
The game got out of hand at the 6:41 mark of the third period as both teams combined for 30 penalty minutes in that tussle.
The Fighting Saint’s Sucese took advantage of the 5-on-3 power play by scoring his second goal and cutting the Jacks lead to 3-2 at 8:12 of the third.
Dubuque’s power play went 2-9, while the Lumberjacks were 0-2 on the man advantage. The teams combined for 80 penalty minutes.
Jacks goaltender Schierhorn stopped 41-of-43 shots while the Fighting Saints goalie Jacob Nehama stopped 21-of-24 shots.
“I told the team that last night’s game was like a playoff game and tonight’s game is Game 2 and we responded well,” Krygier said. “I believe we are a strong and physical team that can skate and score and that we play hard and well.”
The Lumberjacks close their six-game homestand next Friday when they host the Youngstown Phantoms. Faceoff will be at 7:15 p.m.