By Steve Gunn
MUSKEGON – It obviously wasn’t the kind of homecoming that Mason Jobst hoped for.
Jobst, the Muskegon Lumberjacks captain, had been out of the lineup since October with a serious shoulder injury. He had surgery and rehabbed for months in a desperate effort to return for the playoffs.
He finally got medical clearance for the Clark Cup finals, and was in the starting lineup for Game 1 on Saturday at L.C. Walker Arena.
But the rest of the game didn’t go as planned for the Lumberjacks.
They had a one-goal lead after two periods, then fell victim to a flurry of defensive breakdowns and dropped a 3-2 decision to Sioux Falls in front of 2,562 fans.
Game 2 will be Sunday night in Muskegon at 7:15 p.m. It’s shaping up as a must-win for the Jacks in the best three-of-five series. They do not want to go back to Sioux Falls for Games 3 and 4 with a two-game deficit.
This is the first time in their three playoff series that the Lumberjacks have trailed by a game.
“We’ll see,” said Muskegon Coach Todd Krygier. “You’ve got to make a commitment to play well defensively. When you don’t you end up losing the game.
“The third period we were going back and forth exchanging goals. You can’t do that against a good team, particularly in the finals.”
Saturday’s game was tight from start to finish, and seemed pretty promising for the Lumberjacks for two periods.
The first period was scoreless, then Matej Paulovic gave the Jacks a 1-0 lead on a redirect of a Griffen Molino shot at 4:12 of the second period.
But Sioux Falls came alive in the third period, taking a 2-1 lead on goals by Dakota Joshua and Ryan Schwalbe at 5:58 and 10:52, respectively.
The Lumberjacks tied the score 2-2 at 11:30 of the third period with an unassisted goal by Mark Petaccio.
But Sioux Falls had the final say with a goal from J.M. Piatrowski with just over six minutes left in the contest.
Sioux Falls outshot Muskegon 37-32
“Obviously they’re an excellent team.” Krygier said about the Stampede. “At the end of the day we’ve got to make a committment to playing smarter defensively and managing the puck better.
“I think that was our worst game of the playoffs so far.”
Sioux Falls goalie Stefanos Lekkas stopped 30 shots to collect the win. Muskegon’s Eric Schierhorn took the loss.
“I thought Schierhorn played outstanding all game long as did Lekkas, you just gotta keep pounding away,” said Sioux Falls Coach Cary Eades. “Finally we got one by him and were able to make a couple more plays to the net, but there were scoring chances at both ends all three periods. Not many second chances.
“It was two real good hockey teams going head-to-head.”