By Steve Gunn and Dave Hart

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – On the bright side, two wins in three games certainly isn’t bad, particularly on the road.

But the Muskegon Lumberjacks missed a golden opportunity Monday to pull within a whisker of first place in their conference.

Mitch Eliot brings the puck up the ice for Muskegon. Photo/Callie McDade

Mitch Eliot brings the puck up the ice for Muskegon. Photo/Callie McDade

The Lumberjacks came out flying and grabbed a one-goal lead in Bloomington, then went to sleep in the final two periods and dropped a 5-2 decision to the Thunder in a rare matinee game at U.S. Cellular Coliseum.

The game was the third in a five-game road swing for the Lumberjacks. They won the first two,Friday in Waterloo and Saturday in Bloomington.

A victory would have given Muskegon its longest road winning streak of the season at three, and would have pulled the Jacks within one point of first-place Cedar Rapids in the USHL’s Eastern Conference.

Instead the Lumberjacks fell to 26-14-3. They remain in second place in the conference, three points behind idle Cedar Rapids.

The Jacks will finish their road trip next weekend with a game in Dubuque on Friday and Chicago on Saturday.

Penalties were an issue for the Lumberjacks throughout the contest, most critically in the third period, when they received a double minor just after scoring and pulling within one goal.

Muskegon's Dante Palecco controls the puck. Photo/Callie McDade

Muskegon’s Dante Palecco controls the puck. Photo/Callie McDade

Bloomington scored seconds into the ensuing power play and took command of the game.

Overall Muskegon had 26 penalty minutes in the game, including a 10 minute misconduct. Bloomington had only eight minutes in penalties.

Muskegon Coach Todd Krygier was not pleased after the game.

“Our defensemen were not handling the puck in their own zone and we were creating turnovers for the other team,” he said. “We were overhandling the puck in the second period and we got away from our game plan. We were selfish and it cost us.

“Games like this we should win. All it shows to me is that they don’t respect each other and they are selfish and undisciplined. This team will never go anywhere as long as they continue like this.”

Majej Paulovic carries the puck up along the boards. Photo/Callie McDade

Majej Paulovic carries the puck up along the boards. Photo/Callie McDade

The Lumberjacks came out flying, outshooting the Thunder 7-0 and 10-1 through the first half of the first period.

Muskegon’s Jack Rowe opened the scoring at 6:40 of the first period with a power play goal, hitting the mark with a wrist shot from the left circle.

Max Humitz and Christian Wolanin had assists on the goal.

But that was the last time the Lumberjacks led.

Bloomington’s Jalen Smereck tied the score with a power play goal at 11:47 of the first period.

The Thunder went up 2-1 at 11:07 of the second period with a goal from Logan Lambdin.

Ryan Siroky gave Bloomington a 3-1 lead with a goal  at 13:41 of the second period.

Muskegon pulled within a goal early in the third period when Rowe broke in alone between the circles and popped a shot past Bloomington goalie Logan Halladay at 2:19 of the third period. Adrian Sloboda and David Keefer had assists.

It was Rowe’s 13th goal of the season.

But the comeback stalled when forward Mark Petaccio was called for a four minute double minor penalty for roughing at 3:29 of the third period.

Bloomington’s Tarek Baker took advantage about 30 seconds later, popping in a rebound from in front of the net to put the Thunder up 4-2.

Alec Mehr finished the scoring for the Thunder with an open net goal with just over two minutes left in the game.

Bloomington ended up outshooting the Jacks 35-28. Halladay made 26 saves to get the win while Muskegon goalie Eric Schierhorn took the loss.