By Steve Gunn
He’s lived up to expectations – so well, in fact, that the Jacks are going to have to live without him for a few games in December.
This week Pitlick was one of 20 United States Hockey League standouts named to the U.S. Junior Select Team that will compete in the 2015 World Junior “A” Challenge tournament Dec. 13-19 in Whitby, Ontario.
The U.S. squad will compete against teams from several other nations, including Canada, Switzerland, Russia and Denmark.
Pitlick will be the third Lumberjack to compete in the tournament. Last year Christian Wolanin and Eric Schierhorn represented the Jacks.
“It should be fun, it’s a good opportunity,” said Pitlick, 18, he son of former NHL defenseman Lance Pitnick, who played with the Ottawa Senators and Florida Panthers. “I had buddies on my team last year who did it, and it’s always been in the back of my mind. It’s nice to be recognized and make the team.”
The down side for the Lumberjacks is that Pitlick will probably have to miss four games in December to compete in the tournament.
“That’s something I thought about,” Pitlick said. “I don’t want to miss games with the team, but that’s something that comes with it. It’s not something you say ‘no’ to. It is what it is.”
There’s little doubt that the Lumberjacks will miss Pitlick, a forward who is currently their leading scorer with five goals and six assists.
He played a key role the past two weekends when the Jacks shook off a 2-6 start and won four straight games on the road – one in Chicago, one in Bloomington, and two last weekend in Fargo.
Pitlick got the road trip off to a healthy start by scoring two goals in Muskegon’s 3-2 victory in Chicago, including the game winner in overtime. He added a goal and an assist last Friday in the Jacks’ 4-1 win in Fargo.
Pitlick said he’s not surprised by the team’s turnaround, and expects good things the rest of the season.
“We have some younger guys on the team, but now we’re starting to come together as a group and polish things up in practice,” said Pitlick, who broke into the USHL last season with Waterloo, notching seven goals and nine assists.
“I practice every day with these guys and I see a ton of talent. It’s just a matter of us coming to play every night. If we do that I think we can compete with any team in the league.”
Daccord named USHL Goalie of the Week again
Another Lumberjack who played a key role in the four straight wins was starting goalie Joey Daccord.
The first-year netminder was particularly sharp last weekend in Fargo, stopping 18 of 19 shots in Friday’s 4-1 victory, then stopping all 27 shots he faced in Saturday’s 1-0 win.
The shutout was the first of Daccord’s USHL career.
For his efforts, Daccord was named the league’s Goaltender of the Week for the second time this season. He currently has a 6-4 record with a 2.45 GAA and .906 save percentage.
Jacks returning home after great trip
The Lumberjacks are now 6-6 on the season, thanks to the desperately needed four-game sweep on their recent road trip.
They are still in last place in the USHL’s Eastern Conference with 12 points, but they are tied with three other teams – Chicago, Team USA and Madison.
The Lumberjacks are only three points behind fifth-place Youngstown and eight points behind first place Dubuque.
The team will get a chance to close the gap with Dubuque with two home games against the Fighting Saints on Friday and Saturday at 7:15 p.m. at L.C. Walker Arena.
They will travel to Youngstown next Wednesday, then come back home for games on Friday Nov. 27 and Saturday Nov. 28 against the Tri-City Storm.