By Steve Gunn
Local Sports Journal
Unless he changes his plans between now and then – or he was kidding – apparently Detroit Red Wings Coach Mike Babcock is coming to Muskegon this weekend for two Lumberjacks games.
Babcock spilled the beans during his postgame interview on Fox Sports Detroit Tuesday, following the Red Wings’ 5-4 victory over the Minnesota Wild.
When asked by FSN analyst Darren Eliot about his plans for the coming National Hockey League All-Star weekend, when the Wings and the rest of the league are idle, Babcock replied that he’s going to be in Muskegon to watch his son, a member of the Fargo Force, play a “doubleheader” this weekend.
The “doubleheader” is actually two games in two nights – Muskegon vs. Fargo, Friday and Saturday at 7:15 p.m. at L.C. Walker Arena.
“I’m the lucky one to be in Muskegon,” Babcock said during the interview. “There must be a hotel there.”
“I hear the weather is beautiful,” Eliot said.
“I don’t doubt that,” Babcock replied.
The conversation was probably sparked by the fact that both Darren Eliot and Babcock will have sons playing in the games this weekend. Darren Eliot’s son, Mitch Eliot, is a first-year defenseman for the Lumberjacks.
Michael Babcock, the coach’s son, is a forward who has no goals and four assists in 34 games with the Force this season, according to the United States Hockey League website.
The Lumberjacks front office declined to comment on the possibility of Babcock being at the games.
At this point that seems to indicate that Babcock – if he shows up – would not be making any public appearances.
It wasn’t easy, but the Lumberjacks fought their way to two victories in three games in the past week.
On Friday in Omaha, Muskegon trailed 3-2 before Jack Rowe scored in the second period to tie the score, then Matheson Iacopelli notched the game winner in the third period to clinch a 4-3 victory.
On Saturday Muskegon jumped out to a 1-0 lead, but five unanswered goals by Omaha led to a 5-2 defeat.
The Lumberjacks rebounded at home on Monday in a special Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day game, downing the Bloomington Thunder 4-3 in an overtime shootout.
The Lumberjacks fell behind 1-0 after one period, took the lead in the middle of the game with goals by Christian Wolanin, Max Humitz and Joseph Cecconi. They allowed the Thunder to tie the game by the end of regulation.
Newcomer Juraj Mily netted the winning goal in the fourth round of the shootout to give the Jacks a dramatic 4-3 victory.
The Lumberjacks are now 21-11-3 on the season. They are in second place in the USHL’s Eastern Conference, two points ahead of third place Dubuque and seven points behind first place Cedar Rapids.
Iacopelli concussion update
Concussions have been an issue for the Lumberjacks all season.
Two standouts, Rowe and goalie Eric Schierhorn, missed games earlier this season after suffering concussions. Now Iacopelli, the reigning USHL scoring champion, is experiencing the same thing.
The injury occurred in the first period of Saturday’s game in Omaha. Iacopelli was skating along the boards and his feet slipped out from underneath him just as an opponent was applying a check, according to Lumberjacks Coach Todd Krygier.
“He took a knee to the head,” Krygier said. “His head hit the boards and the ice as well as the guy’s knee. He was pretty dazed.”
Iacopelli missed Monday’s game and will not be in the lineup for either game this weekend, Krygier said. It usually takes a minimum of 10-14 days for a player to return to action following a concussion, he said.