By Steve Gunn
On Saturday they trailed the winless Cedar Rapids RoughRiders 2-1 after two periods, then collected goals from Andrei Svechnikov, Bo Hanson and Matt Steeves to nail down a 4-2 win.
On Sunday the Jacks faced an even more daunting task. They trailed the Madison Capitols 4-1 after two periods and seemed certain to have their two-game winning streak snapped.
But Muskegon collected third-period goals from Collin Adams, Steeves (his second goal of the game) and Koby Bender to tie the score. Then Svechnikov scored the game-winner with a nifty wrap-around goal just 27 seconds into overtime, giving Muskegon a 5-4 win.
The Jacks have now captured three straight victories, all with third-period comebacks. They have won seven of their last nine games and are 11-5 overall, good for 22 points and second place in the USHL Eastern Conference standings.
Chicago leads the conference with 26 points while Green Bay is third with 20 points and Dubuque is fourth with 17 points. The top four teams in the conference will make the playoffs next spring.
Lumberjacks Coach John LaFontaine is happy with his team’s recent victories, but says the need to rally so often means there’s a lot of improving to do.
“We’ve had to win late and haven’t played a full 60 minutes (of good hockey),” the coach said. “We haven’t put it all together, so it’s hard to say if we’re trending the right way or the wrong way. We come away after every game saying we have more work to do. Hopefully the guys will remain hungry.”
The Jacks will be challenged over the next week, with four straight games on the road. They will play in Sioux City Friday and Saturday night and Omaha on Sunday, before visiting the Team USA Under-18 squad on Wednesday in Plymouth, Michigan.
The team will return home on Saturday, Nov. 26 with a game against Lincoln.
“When we look ahead, we have eight of our next nine games on the road,” LaFontaine said. “We’ll see how well we get it done.”
Two Jacks win weekly league honors
Svechnikov and Hanson were recognized by the USHL for their outstanding performances over the weekend.
Svechnikov, a 16-year-old rookie from Russia, was named the league’s Forward of the Week after registering two goals and two assists on Saturday and Sunday.
His current hot streak actually began outside the USHL. He was the leading scorer in the recent 2016 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario and led the Russian team to a bronze medal in the tournament.
Here’s what USHL.com had to say about Svechnikov’s performance for Muskegon last weekend:
“Svechnikov scored in back-to-back games over the weekend, including an overtime game-winning goal Sunday night. One week after leading the World U17 Hockey Challenge in scoring, the rookie forward extended his point streak to eight games with a four-point weekend. Sunday’s tally was his second game-winning goal this season. Svechnikov now has 13 points in 11 games, and is second in USHL rookie scoring.”
Hanson, the 19-year-old Lumberjacks captain from Boise, Idaho, was named the league’s Defenseman of the Week after collecting one goal and four assists over the weekend. He’s become an assist machine, piling up 13 so far on the season.
“Hanson now leads all USHL defensemen in scoring after a five-point weekend,” USHL.com wrote. “The Lumberjacks captain scored Saturday’s game-winning goal late in the third period. He also dished out two assists in back-to-back nights. The Boise, Idaho native played in his 125th career USHL game on Sunday.”
LaFontaine said he’s proud when players earn league recognition, but said the focus is on the team.
“Each weekend different guys are stepping up, with is a good sign for the team,” he said. “This past weekend we needed everybody in different spurts to help us out. When it came down to needing timely goals in the third period, things went well for us.”
Adams second in league scoring
Lumberjacks forward Collin Adams, who had a huge rookie season in 2015-16, is off to another great start this year. He currently leads the team, and is second in the league, with 10 goals and nine assists for 19 points.
Green Bay’s Casey Mittelstadt is the league’s leading scorer with eight goals and 13 assists for 21 points.
Hanson is second in scoring on the Lumberjacks, and 13th in the league, with two goals and 13 assists for 15 points. Svechnikov is third on the team and 20th in the league with five goals and eight assists for 13 points.
USHL power rankings
While the Lumberjacks have moved up to second place in the Eastern Conference, they have been pegged as the sixth best team in the league in the USHL power rankings, published by USAHockeyMagazine.com.
Chicago is the best team in the league, according to the website. Western Conference powers Waterloo and Sioux City are ranked second and third, respectively, while Green Bay is fourth and Des Moines is fifth.
Waterloo, Des Moines and Green Bay all have fewer points in the standings than Muskegon.
LaFontaine said he is not concerned with the power rankings.
“I don’t care if they have us at 10 or 11,” he said. “This is a tough league. If you don’t keep getting better you can be at the bottom of the barrel pretty quickly.”