By Dave Hart
MUSKEGON – The Muskegon Lumberjacks had two different captains in 2015-16 – and neither of them lasted until the end of the season.
Defenseman Trevor Hamilton started the season as captain, but was traded to Chicago after 32 games.
Forward Robbie DeMontis inherited the captain’s role, but was injured and sidelined for the season soon after getting the job.
Now Bo Hanson, a third-year Lumberjack defenseman, is getting his turn at wearing the “C” on his jersey, and he’s counting on keeping that role for the entire schedule.
The new captain will lead the Lumberjacks into a pair of games Friday and Saturday in Cedar Rapids against the RoughRiders. Both games will face off at 8:05 p.m. EST.
The Jacks will return home Friday, Oct. 14 to face Youngstown.
Hanson was the selection of first-year Coach John LaFontaine, who took his time to carefully determine who should be the leader on the ice.
“He was the most organized throughout the preseason, and wants to keep the team on the same page with the coaching staff,” said LaFontaine. “We had individual player meetings, and it was determined he is the most influential player and has great leadership qualities.”
Hanson, a native of Boise, Idaho, has played in 112 games for the Lumberjacks over the past three seasons, the most of any player on the current Muskegon roster. He’s a respected stay-at-home defenseman who has one goal and 13 assists during his time with the Jacks.
“It’s a great honor to wear the ‘C’ and I’m excited to be wearing it,” said Hanson. “I had a little idea that I was going to be named the captain, but it’s still a great honor.
“I plan to lead by example, and thus far the younger players have been looking up to me, and I’m glad to help them adjust to this league.”
Hanson is excited about the Lumberjacks’ 2-1 start, which included a thrilling 2-1 overtime victory over Team USA in the home opener at L.C. Walker Arena last Saturday.
“I have high expectations for this team and we are showing a lot of promise,” Hanson said. “The first game of the season (a 7-2 loss to Team USA on Sept. 23) was just a small hiccup.”
The Lumberjacks will have a new twist this year, with nobody serving as alternate captains. LaFontaine said he’s expecting leadership-by-committee from the team’s more experienced players.
Brickey off to a hot start
Lumberjacks defenseman Scooter Brickey is off to a hot start, with two goals and one assist over the first three games of the season.
The last one was a thriller. He scored the winning goal 1:14 into overtime on Saturday with a shot from the left point that trickled into the goal.
“It was amazing,” said Brickey. “It was my first home opener in my career in the United States Hockey League and the atmosphere was great.
“At first I didn’t think that is was my goal, because Logan (Drevitch, who was near the goal) celebrated hard after the puck went in the net. But for me, at the end of the day, it’s all about the team’s success.”
Brickey played 10 games for the Lumberjacks last season, but was held pointless. That might have left some fans thinking that he’s not much of an offensive player, but his stats suggest that he can score when he gets the chance.
He scored 15 goals and notched 42 assists in 75 games with the Little Caesars youth program last season, before joining the Lumberjacks.
“I have been concentrating on passing the puck more and making more plays for the team,” said Brickey, who is from Lakeport, Michigan and is committed to play college hockey at Western Michigan University. “It feels great to be able to help the team.”
Before the season, LaFontaine indicated that Adam Brizgala would be the Lumberjacks’ starting goalie, but so far it hasn’t worked out that way.
Keith Petruzzelli, who was supposed to be the backup, replaced Brizgala at the start of the third period in Muskegon’s first game of the season and stopped 11 of 13 shots.
He got the start the next night against the Bloomington Thunder and stopped 28 of 31 shots, helping the Jacks gain their first victory.
Petruzelli was again in goal in last Saturday’s home opener. He stopped 21 of 22 shots and made some great saves when Team USA had a two-man advantage midway through the third period.
LaFontaine now says the starting goalie will be the guy who’s playing better at any given time.
“He (Petruzzelli) is currently the hot hand,” the coach said. “I’m a big believer that how practice goes throughout the week means a lot. Brizgala is also capable of being dominant in the net.”