By Steve Gunn
MUSKEGON – Pretty much everyone agreed that Game 2 of the Clark Cup finals was a “must win” for the Muskegon Lumberjacks.
After battling to a scoreless tie after one period Sunday, Muskegon gave up five goals in a disastrous second period and lost 6-1 to Sioux Falls in front of 2,083 fans at L.C. Walker Arena.
The Jacks now trail the best-of-five championship series 2-0, and would have to win the final three games to capture the Clark Cup, with the next two in Sioux Falls.
Game 3 will be in Sioux Falls on Friday. A Muskegon victory would force a Game 4 in Sioux Falls on Sunday. The fifth and deciding game would be Wednesday, May 20 back in Muskegon.
“At the end of the day we are still alive, but they have to win one and we have to win three,” said Lumberjacks Coach Todd Krygier. “We have to get on the same page and be disciplined. In the second period we gave the game away, we beat ourselves.
“We need to start by winning our first shift in the first period in Sioux Falls and take it from there.”
The Lumberjacks will have to play much better if they hope to rebound and create the necessity for another home game.
And they will have to start by staying out of the penalty box.
The Jacks were whistled for an ugly total of 73 penalty minutes, compared to only 32 for Sioux Falls. The Lumberjacks were called for nine two-minute minor penalties, four 10-minute misconducts, one five-minute major and a game misconduct for forward Mark Petaccio.
There were two mini-brawls in the game – one in the second period and the other in the third – after the referees appeared to lose control of the contest.
The second period scrap started after a Sioux Falls player was injured and lying face down on the ice. The third period clash started after a Muskegon player was injured and lying face down on the ice.
Both players apparently avoided serious injury, but that was hard to discern right away when the pushing and shoving began.
“I cannot comment on the referees,” Krygier said. “It is what it is.”
While the Lumberjacks were busy going to the penalty box in the second period, Sioux Falls was busy scoring.
The Stampede broke a scoreless tie 1:09 into the second period with a goal by Joey Raats. They made it 2-0 just 10 seconds later with a goal by Kieffer Bellows.
Cooper Marody and Collin Peters added power play goals for Sioux Falls at 10:02 and 12:40, respectively, making the score 4-0.
Lawton Courtnall ended the second period barrage with a goal at 17:30.
Lumberjacks goalie Eric Schierhorn was replaced by backup Michael Latorella after the fourth Sioux Falls goal.
Krygier blamed poor team defense for the rash of Sioux Falls goals, and said he did not hold Schierhorn responsible.
“At that point it’s 4-0,” Krygier said about making the goalie change. “(Schierhorn) has worked hard and I still have total faith and confidence in him.”
Muskegon played several chunks of the third period without a goalie, so they could have an extra attacker, but it had little impact.
Matheson Iacopelli finally put the Lumberjacks on the scoreboard at 13:25 of the third period, then Sioux Falls wrapped up the scoring with an empty-netter by Bellows at 13:52.
Sioux Falls outshot Muskegon 36-30. Stampede goalie Steffano Lekkas stopped 29 shots to collect his second victory of the series.
“I was really proud of our guys,” said Sioux Falls Coach Cary Eades. “We’re playing real well. We’ve asked a lot of our guys, we hold them highly accountable, and they’re responding.”