By Steve Gunn
So it’s no surprise that the Jacks opened the season with an ugly 1-4 record.
Luckily for Muskegon, the four returnees from last season all rediscovered their scoring touch Wednesday in a morning game against the Chicago Steel at L.C. Walker Arena.
The result was a desperately needed 4-2 victory for the Lumberjacks in front of 1,810 fans, which broke their four-game losing streak.
“That really was the difference – every team in this league is driven by its top players, and that was part of our slow start,” said Muskegon Coach Todd Krygier, whose team is 2-4-0 and remains in last place in the United States Hockey League’s Eastern Conference. “It was great to see those guys get some goals.
“It’s been a long couple of weeks. I thought we did a lot of good stuff today. I thought we played tough defensively, and it turned into a win. We did a good job of executing a lot of things we’ve been practicing the last two weeks.”
The Lumberjacks have been hurt in the early weeks of the season by a light schedule. While most of the teams in the league have played seven or eight games, they were limited to five before Wednesday.
But that is starting to change this week, with the Jacks playing Wednesday, and hosting Green Bay this Friday and Saturday night at 7:15 p.m. each night.
“I’m looking forward to playing more games,” Krygier said. “This is a big week for us, especially being a couple of games below .500. We have to work our way back to .500 and then work our way from there. I think there’s a lot of parity in this league, and I think we’ll be right in the mix by the end of the year.”
Graber gave Muskegon a 1-0 lead with a power play goal at 5:28 of the first period, with assists from Carson Vance and Rem Pitlick. It was Graber’s first goal of the season.
Chicago tied the score at 1-1 with a power play goal from Mitch Lewandowski at 16:19 of the first period.
Hamilton, the Lumberjacks’ captain, scored his first goal of the season with less than a minute left in the first period, with assists from DeMontis and Paulovic.
Chicago’s Marcel Godbout scored almost halfway through the second period, tying the score at 2-2.
But the Jacks took the lead for good at 19:26 of the second period when Paulovic fed a perfect pass from the left wing to DeMontis, who scored his first goal of the season from close range.
Paulovic added his second goal of the season, with assists from Pitlick and Logan Drevitch, at the 8:47 mark to make the score 4-2.
Muskegon outshot Chicago 28-27. Lumberjack Goalie Joey Daccord stopped 25 shots to collect the victory between the pipes.