By Steve Gunn and Dave Hart
He had a far different experience Saturday night.
The Lumberjacks, who until recently had been struggling to put the puck in the net, had their highest scoring game of the year, downing Team USA 9-5 in front of 2,117 fans at L.C. Walker Arena.
The offensive fireworks prompted Team USA to pull Scheel from goal midway through the second period, after he gave up his fourth goal.
The victory left the Lumberjacks with a 10-8-1 record, including an 8-2-1 mark in their last 11 games. The Team USA Under 17 squad, which splits a schedule with the Under 18 team, fell to 1-8-2.
The Jacks will play two games in Sioux Falls next weekend, then return home on Dec. 18-19 for a pair of home games against Cedar Rapids.
Rem Pitlick continued his hot streak for the Lumberjacks, tallying two goals and three assists for a five-point night.
The goals were Pitlick’s 13th and 14th of the season and eighth in his last five games. He extended his goal scoring streak to five games.
Pitlick now leads the USHL in scoring with 28 points in 19 games.
“We would not be 8-2-1 without Rem,” said Muskegon Coach Todd Krygier. “He is obviously an elite player who is doing a great job.”
Muskegon’s Laine McKay and Collin Adams added two goals apiece while Trevor Hamilton, Will Graber and newcomer Hayden Rowan each had one.
Hamilton added two assists while Graber, Logan Drevitch and Dante Palecco each had one.
Prior to Saturday the Jacks had not scored more than five goals in a game, and that only happened once, in a game against Youngstown last Wednesday.
Muskegon outshot Team USA 39-33.
“We’ve been working a lot on how to manufacture goals, which is what you need to do,” Krygier said about the sudden scoring barrage. “Guys have been doing a real good job on executing in a couple different areas that have made a difference for us.”
While the Lumberjacks were scoring plenty of goals, they also gave up a lot. That was unusual for a team that has been playing great defense in recent weeks and winning a lot of low scoring games.
Muskegon backup goalie Devin Cooley got the start and victory, stopping 28 of 33 shots.
“We have been playing pretty good team defense, then the last two games ended up being run-and-gun shootouts, but the guys have been battling,” Krygier said.
McKay opened the scoring 2:48 into the first period with a wrist shot from the right circle.
Hamilton made it 2-0 at the 6:42 mark with a slap shot from the point that hit a goalpost and appeared to be knocked in by Scheel.
The visitor’s Tommy Miller scored at the halfway point of the first period to pull his team within a goal, then Joey Casseti added a goal at 17:54 to leave the game tied 2-2 after one period.
The two teams traded punches in the second period.
Adams scored a minute into the period, putting the Jacks up 3-2, then Team USA’s Grant Mismash answered at the 2:30 mark.
Pitlick, who was denied on two breakaways in the first period, was tripped on his third attempt in the second period and was awarded a penalty shot. He cashed in on the opportunity, putting Muskegon up 4-3 and chasing Scheel from the Team USA goal.
Pitlick added another goal at the 11:45 mark, giving the Jacks a 5-3 lead, but Team USA’s Josh Norris scored at 12:54, leaving Muskegon with a precarious 5-4 edge at the second intermission.
The third period was all Lumberjacks, with McKay, Graber, Adams and Rowan notching goals, while Jacob Tortora had the lone tally for Team USA.