By Steve Gunn
MUSKEGON – Six days is a long layoff in a playoff hockey series.
They’ve been pretty busy over the past few weeks, beating Youngstown in four games in the first round of the Clark Cup playoffs, then playing in Dubuque twice last weekend in the first two games of the Eastern Conference finals.
The series is tied 1-1. Muskegon rallied for a 4-2 victory on Friday with three third period goals. The Fighting Saints bounced back on Saturday with a 7-3 win.
The Jacks could eliminate Dubuque this weekend with a pair of victories in the best 3-of-5 series. On the other hand, a pair of home losses would spell the end of the season for the Jacks.
Game 5, if necessary, would be Tuesday in Dubuque.
The winner of the series will play the winner of the Eastern Conference finals in the Clark Cup finals. Tri-City and Sioux falls are tied one game apiece, with the third and fourth games slated for this weekend.
“I would like another day (of rest), to be honest,” said Lumberjacks Coach Todd Krygier. “We played four games in seven days in a very difficult series (against Youngstown), then we had three days to be in Dubuque.
“Today was the first day in practice that our guys had any real jump in their legs in two weeks. Dubuque is an excellent skating team. They took a lot out of us last weekend. I think it was a blessing in disguise that we got some rest.”
The Lumberjacks played without standouts Matheson Iacopelli and Christian Wolanin in Saturday’s ugly loss. Both were out with illness and will be back at full strength this weekend, according to Krygier.
But their presence wouldn’t have made a difference in Game 2, the coach said.
“We just didn’t seem to have it,” Krygier said. “We were tired, we tried, but it just wasn’t there that night. Dubuque played well. They had pressure on them and came out and responded real well.”
Krygier pointed out one issue that the Lumberjacks must address if they hope to win the series.
“We played (Dubuque) six times in the regular season and they outshot us by 90 shots,” he said. “The last two games they outshot us by 25. We obviously have to make some adjustments and limit their opportunities, and create some more offense for ourselves.”