By Steve Gunn

MUSKEGON – Mason Jobst has been working as hard as he can to make it back into the Muskegon Lumberjacks’ lineup for the playoffs.

LSJ Logo incertBut with the first playoff game about a week away, Jobst doesn’t think he’s ready quite yet, and the team has no intention of pressuring him.

Mason Jobst

Mason Jobst

Jobst, a four-year Lumberjack and the team’s captain at the start of the season, was sidelined in October by a left shoulder dislocation that required surgery. Shoulder injuries have plagued Jobst throughout his hockey career.

He went home to Indiana for a few months following the injury, then returned to Muskegon after the holidays and started rehabilitating with the goal of making it back for a playoff run.

Jobst has been practicing with the Lumberjacks for several weeks, wearing a special orange jersey that signifies “no contact.”

He said he’s made definite progress, but still doesn’t know if he’ll be able to compete when the playoffs begin.

“I’m feeling good, but I don’t think I’m ready right now,” Jobst told Local Sports Journal. “I think there’s more work to be done in the weight room and in conditioning. I really don’t know. Each day is different. Some days I feel good and other days I’m more sore. I really can’t tell.”

Jobst said he regularly talks to Lumberjacks Coach Todd Krygier and General Manager John Vanbiesbrouck about his progress.

“They are always checking up and seeing how I’m feeling,” he said. “I tell them there’s no specific date or time frame. When I’m ready I’ll know I’m ready. There’s no way to really tell right now. I wish I had answers.”

Krygier thinks it’s important for Jobst to fully rehabilitate before returning to active duty, whether it’s in the USHL playoffs or next fall when he plays for Ohio State University.

“I’m not expecting it,” Krygier said about Jobst’s possible return. “I think it’s really important for Mason to build his body back up. Before we took over (prior to the 2013-14 season) he was injured and didn’t do much rehabilitation. I think he needs to take the time away.”

Krygier said the final call will be up to Jobst, as long as he has medical clearance. Jobst could be inserted into the lineup at any time during the playoffs, he said.

“If he comes to me and says ‘Coach I’m ready to play,’ I’m putting him in the lineup,” Krygier said. “But I’m not going to Mason and asking ‘Are you ready to play?’ That wouldn’t be fair to him.”

Playoff scenarios 

The Lumberjacks are 34-20-4 following last weekend’s losses to Team USA and Youngstown. They have 72 points, good for fourth place in the USHL’s Eastern Conference. They are three points behind third-place Dubuque.

Muskegon and Dubuque both have two regular season games remaining, with the Jacks playing in Madison Friday and Saturday. To sneak into third, Muskegon would have to win both games and hope Dubuque loses two.

The Lumberjacks have two possible first-round playoff scenarios. All series in the playoffs will have a maximum of five games.

If they finish fourth, which seems likely, they will meet first-place Youngstown. Game 1 would be in Muskegon next Wednesday, with the second and third games in Youngstown on Friday, April 17 and Saturday, April 18.

Game 4, if necessary, would be in Muskegon on Monday, April 20, while Game 5 would be in Youngstown on Wednesday, April 22.

If the Jacks finish third they would play second-place Cedar Rapids. The first two games in that scenario would be in Muskegon next Tuesday and Wednesday, while games 3 and 4 would be in Cedar Rapids on Friday, April 17 and Saturday, April 18. Game 5 would be in Cedar Rapids on Monday, April 20.