By Dave Hart
MUSIKEGON – Max Humitz came to Muskegon with a promising record as a point producer.
Now it looks like that’s starting to change. Humitz has been on a tear in the past two weeks, scoring three regulation goals, a game-winning shootout goal, and adding an assist.
The hot streak started with the shootout goal on Dec. 29, which gave the Lumberjacks an exciting 3-2 victory over Youngstown at L.C. Walker Arena.
“I faked him out and slid the puck under the goalies’ left pad,” said Humitz, 20, a native of Livonia. “It was exciting to celebrate with my teammates on the ice at home after beating a rival (Youngstown).”
The shootout goal apparently whetted Humitz’ appetitive for scoring, because he hasn’t slowed down since then.
He scored a goal on Dec. 30 on the road against the Team USA Under-17 squad and had an assist on New Year’s Eve at home against Chicago.
He continued the hot streak last weekend during a home-and-home series with the Bloomington Thunder.
In Bloomington on Friday, he scored the game-winning goal with 20.5 seconds left, giving the Lumberjacks a 3-2 win. Then he scored Muskegon’s first goal the next night in a home loss to Bloomington.
So where has this obvious scoring touch been lately?
After all, Humitz had 16 goals and 15 assists in one season of midget hockey, 12 goals and 19 assists in another, and 10 goals and 19 assists in 2013-14, his first year in the USHL.
He has 10 goals and 12 assists in 57 games since coming to Muskegon. That includes five goals and nine assists last season and five goals and three assists so far this season.
He says the scoring ability has always been there, but it’s only part of his game.
“I considered myself a two-way player,” Humitz said. “I take a lot of pride in playing defense first. If the offense shows up, then great.”
He also says the Lumberjacks’ recent holiday break helped him regain his focus, which may explain some of his recent productivity.
“I also give credit to my linemates for my current success,” said Humitz, who has been playing with forwards Robbie DeMontis and Jacob Coleman.
Humitz came to Muskegon from Lincoln in January of last season for future considerations.
He want from a team out of playoff contention to the Lumberjacks, who advanced all the way to the Clark Cup finals, giving Humitz and his teammates a season to remember.
“I was not expecting a trade to Muskegon when it happened,” Humitz said. “But I was excited to go to a second-place team from a last-place team.
“It was sad to leave my old teammates, but to have a chance to play for a winning team and go deep into the playoffs was great.”
Unbalanced scoring a problem for the Jacks
The Lumberjacks, now 13-12-3 on the season, haven’t been playing badly in recent weeks, but they haven’t been consistently good, either.
The hot-and-cold team hasn’t won consecutive games since a five-game winning streak that ended Nov. 20.
Part of the problem has been unbalanced scoring.
The Lumberjacks’ top forward line of Rem Pitlick, Collin Adams and Chris Klack has been great, combining for 36 goals this season.
Pitlick leads the USHL with 19 goals, while Adams has 14 and Klack has chipped in three.
But that line has produced 45 percent of the team’s 80 goals, which means the other lines are lagging behind, according to Coach Todd Krygier.
“We need consistent production from a second line,” the coach said. “We can’t be successful relying on and watching one line produce unless the other lines demonstrate the will and consistency to be outstanding defensively, night after night.”
Humitz says there’s plenty of offensive talent on the team, and time for the other lines to start producing.
“We try to rely on everyone to score,” he said. “The first line is playing the best because they know how to keep the puck deep in the offensive zone.
“We have a great group of guys and as a team we need to earn some points in the standings. We still have half a season to go so there is plenty of time to do that.”
Weekend schedule, plus Monday
The Lumberjacks will be back in action on Friday night when they travel to Plymouth to take on the Team USA Under-17 squad. Faceoff will be at 7 p.m.
After a rare Saturday off, Muskegon will travel to Chicago to play the Steel on Sunday at 4 p.m. They head back home to host the Under-17s Monday afternoon at 12:15 p.m. in a special Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day game.