The Muskegon Lumberjacks 2016-17 season did not get off to the greatest start.
But the Lumberjacks, who were crushed by the Team USA U-17 squad in their season opener on Friday, bounced back to defeat the Bloomington Thunder 7-3 on Saturday at U.S. Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington, Illinois.
“Last night we were not ready to play,” said first-year Lumberjacks Coach John LaFontaine, who earned his first regular-season victory with the club.
“We as coaches need to continue to teach effort when we do not have possession of the puck. Tonight as a group, the players showed good leadership in making the adjustments on defense.”
Lumberjack returnees Logan Drevitch and Zach Berzolla paced Muskegon with two goals apiece while Aleksi Halme chipped in with two assists.
The Lumberjacks jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first period on goals from Drevitch (5:41), Scooter Brickey (8:27) and Berzolla (17:02).
Bloomington responded with two goals 1:14 apart, early in the second period, to cut the Jacks’ lead to 3-2. Jake Durflinger and Erik Ullman put the puck in the net for the hosts.
But the Lumberjacks responded to the challenge by scoring four of the game’s five final goals to seal down the victory.
Berzolla scored his second goal of the game for the Lumberjacks at the 7:42 mark of the second period, giving Muskegon a 4-2 advantage.
The Lumberjacks added a pair of goals, one shorthanded by Matt Steeves and the other from Casey Gilling, to take a 6-2 lead at the end of the second period.
“This was a key part of the game,” LaFontaine said. “We knew they would come at us hard and I’m glad the guys stayed calm and didn’t change their demeanor.”
The Thunder cut its deficit to 6-3 with a goal from William Fallstrom at the 2:06 mark of the third period.
Muskegon closed out the scoring with an empty net goal by Drevitch with 50 seconds remaining in the game.
Lumberjacks goaltender Keith Petruzzelli stopped 28 of 31 Bloomington shots.
Muskegon will return to the L.C. Walker Arena next Saturday, Oct. 1 for its home opener against the Team USA U-18 squad at 7:15 p.m.