By Steve Gunn
MUSKEGON – Muskegon hockey fans have grown to appreciate Trevor Hamilton in a very short time.
That’s why they were holding their collective breaths Saturday when he collided with a Cedar Rapids player, went down on the ice, stumbled when he tried to get up, and was forced to leave the game.
The good news is that Hamilton was not seriously hurt. The bad news is that he has to go through the concussion regimen and won’t play this weekend when the Jacks visit Sioux City.
Hamilton collided with a Cedar Rapids player in the second period and collapsed on the ice. The collision caused a minor skirmish among several players from both teams, but Hamilton probably didn’t notice because he was knocked out.
“My chin hit his helmet , then my head went down on the ice pretty hard, which made it even worse,” said Hamilton, a 19-year-old defenseman. “I was actually knocked out.”
The Lumberjacks are quite capable of winning without Hamilton in the lineup, but they’re definitely better when he plays. He’s been a very welcome addition since he arrived in a trade in November.
Ironically, the USHL was the farthest thing from Hamilton’s mind last fall. He was starting his sophomore season with the Miami (Ohio) University hockey team and expected to continue his collegiate career.
But he only played one game before leaving school and deciding to return to the junior circuit. Hamilton had played with Team USA of the USHL during the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons.
“The coaches (at Miami) and I just came to a mutual agreement that I came in a little too early and I was not quite ready to play college hockey yet,” said Hamilton, a Michigan native who grew up in Grosse Pointe Farms. “It’s a big jump.
“Things worked out for me my freshman year, but it caught up to me my sophomore year.”
Hamilton was the property of the Fargo Force when he returned to the league last fall, but requested a trade to Muskegon before playing a game.
“I wanted to come to Muskegon,” Hamilton said. “It’s close to home and I knew they had a good team going here.”
The Lumberjacks parted with a first round draft to get Hamilton, and they have not been sorry.
Hamilton, who features a wicked slap shot from the point and a rugged demeanor on the ice, has eight goals and 16 assists in only 34 games, which are very good numbers for a defenseman.
“Trevor’s been great in the locker room and on the ice,” said Lumberjacks Assistant Coach Todd Robinson. “He’s definitely made our team better. He does a lot of things on the ice that other guys can’t do.
“He has great vision. He sees the holes and unleashes that big slap shot.”
Hamilton will be on a new campus when he returns to college. He recently made a commitment to study and play hockey at Penn State University.
But he won’t return to college until his USHL eligibility is exhausted, which means he will be back in Muskegon for the 2015-16 season.
“I’ll be here next year,” Hamilton said. “It’s another year to grow as a player, to become stronger and faster and understand the game better. And we should have a good team next year, too.”
The Lumberjacks broke a four-game losing streak on Saturday with an exciting 4-1 victory over first place Cedar Rapids in front of a season-high 4,086 fans at L.C. Walker Arena.
The victory followed a tough defeat on Friday, when the Jacks outshot Cedar Rapids 45-27 but lost 3-2, due to very hot goaltending by the Roughriders’ Ryan Larkin.
Muskegon is now 27-17-3 and in fourth place in the Eastern Conference.
The Jacks trail third place Dubuque by one point in the standings, second place Youngstown by six points and Cedar Rapids by seven points.
More importantly, the Jacks lead fifth-place Bloomington by eight points with 13 games remaining. The top four teams in each conference make the playoffs.
The Lumberjacks will begin a six game road trip this weekend, with Friday and Saturday night games in Sioux City against the Musketeers, who lead the Western Conference (and the league) with 67 points.
The Lumberjacks made yet another player transaction this week, gaining a high quality defenseman before the USHL trade deadline.
The Jacks acquired defenseman Corey Schueneman and forward Tyler Drevitch from Des Moines in exchange for forward Jack Rowe and defenseman Liam McGing, as well as two players to be named later.
If Schueneman’s name sounds familiar to Muskegon fans, it’s because he appeared in a Lumberjack uniform before.
He played one game for Muskegon in 2011-12 before returning to midget hockey. He played one more game with the Jacks the following season before being traded to Des Moines.
Schueneman is a much better player than he was back then. He currently leads all USHL defensemen with 14 goals this season, and ranks third in assists with 25.
Drevitch has one goal and three assists in his first year in the league.