By Steve Gunn and Dave Hart
MUSKEGON – A lot of exciting things happened at L.C. Walker Arena Saturday night, on the ice and off.
They defeated the Omaha Lancers, the third-place team in the Western Conference, 4-2. The Jacks have now won four out of their last five games and are back at the .500 mark for the first time since mid-January.
They also have a three-game winning streak for the first time since November.
The Lumberjacks are now 20-20-5, good for 45 points and a tie for sixth place in the USHL’s Eastern Conference. They are 13 points out of fourth place, which is the final playoff spot, with 15 games (30 possible points) left in the regular season.
“I give the guys credit – they are playing their asses off,” said Muskegon Coach Todd Krygier, whose team helped itself by killing six of seven Omaha power plays. “They are battling hard, blocking shots, and they are finally playing like a team. It’s the first time all year they are finally doing the little things right.”
“All we can do is take it one game at a time,” Krygier added, when asked about making a late run for the playoffs. “We finally got back to .500 and now we have Cedar (Rapids) and Green Bay (on the road next week).”
The Jacks also drew one of their best crowds of the season – 3,828 – and rewarded the fans for showing up, something they haven’t done very much this season.
In games where they have drawn 2,500 or more fans, the Lumberjacks had only won 25 percent of the time. In games were they drew less, their winning percentage was 43 percent.
“It’s been one of my disappointments, the front office works hard to get a big crowd and we’ve laid an egg,” Krygier said. “So we changed our game plan so can give ourselves a better chance to win.”
There were several outstanding individual performances on the ice.
Lumberjacks goalie Joey Daccord was brilliant, particular in the second period, when Muskegon was outshot 18-8 but outscored Omaha 2-0.
Overall Omaha outshot Muskegon 48-23, but Daccord was the equalizer with his 46 saves.
“Joey was the reason we won the game.” Krygier said. “He made eight consecutive saves during the second period and he battled, but our whole team battled throughout the process. It shows the guys are putting winning in front of individual stuff.”
Meanwhile, forward Rem Pitlick scored another goal, extending his home goal streak to 13 games and his home point streak to 19 games. He now has a league-leading 33 goals on the season.
Matej Paulovic gave the Jacks a 1-0 lead with a goal at 16:38 of the first period, with assists from Pitlick and Grant Gabriele.
Gabriele and Pitlick each added a goal within a minute of each other in the second period – at 16:09 and 16:33, respectively – to put Muskegon up 3-0.
Paulovic and Charlie Gerard assisted on the first goal while Tyler Irvine and Gabriele assisted on the second.
Omaha’s Brandon McManus broke the shutout with a goal at 12:38 of the third period. Muskegon’s Lucas Michaud scored an empty-netter at 14:47 to give the Jacks a 4-1 lead.
Omaha’s Nathan Krusko capped the scoring with a tally at 19:27 of the third period.