By Justin Haggerty

MUSKEGON – The Muskegon Lumberjacks were more than ready to return to L.C. Walker Arena after nearly two weeks away – particularly after losing three of four games on the road.LSJ Logo incert

They made sure Saturday’s homecoming had a happy ending, but not before a potentially easyjacks-transparent win became uncomfortably close.

The Lumberjacks led the Lincoln Stars by three goals after two periods, allowed the visitors to come back and tie the game in the third, then managed to pull out a 4-3 overtime shootout victory in front of 2,673 happy fans.

Andrei Svechnikov scored the game-winner for Muskegon in the shootout. He also had a goal and an assist in the game, which was marred by a fight-filled third period.

“I liked our first two periods, I thought we managed the puck well,” said Muskegon head coach John LaFontaine, whose team improved to 13-8-0 on the season “We just need to keep working on defending better in the neutral zone.”

After a scoreless first period, Muskegon struck early and often in the second.

At the 4:38 mark, Svechnikov found Collin Adams in the crease, and Adams chipped the puck past Lincoln goalkeeper Cayden Primeau to give the Lumberjacks a 1-0 lead. Svechnikov and Colby Bukes earned assists on the play.

Less than a minute later, at 5:29, Muskegon’s Koby Bender was alone in front of the net. He tapped the puck to a waiting Scooter Brickey, who converted his second goal of the season.

Mikael Hakkarainen earned an assist on the play in his first game as a Lumberjack.

“It was nice for (Brickey), he scored in the second game of the year, and now again 20 games later, so that was good for him,” LaFontaine said.

Less than a minute after that, at 6:32, Svechnikov scored with an assist from Adams to put the Jacks up 3-0. The goal extended Svechnikov’s goal-scoring streak to six games, while his earlier assist extended his point scoring streak to 12 games.

“(Svechnikov) seems to gain confidence every day,” LaFontaine said about the talented 16-year-old Russian forward. “Each week he gains more confidence and he’s got great ability around the net.”

Neither team could capitalize for the rest of the period and Muskegon entered the third frame with a 3-0 lead.

Muskegon defenseman Zach Berzolla took a two-minute penalty for making head contact with a Stars player at 3:10 of the third period.

Just 23 seconds later, Lincoln center Gustaf Westlund blasted a slap shot into the back of the Muskegon net to cut the Jacks’ lead to 3-1. Alex Green and Brandon Schultz earned assists on the play.

At the 6:53 mark, a fight broke out between the two teams, resulting in multiple penalties, including a game ejection for Lincoln head coach Chris Hartsburg.

Lincoln’s Luke Jaycox was hit with 17 penalty minutes and a game misconduct while Muskegon’s Will Smith earned a fighting major and a 10-minute misconduct penalty.

After everything was sorted out, Muskegon was left with a 5-on-3 power play. Midway through that, Lincoln took another penalty, extending the Lumberjack advantage.

But Muskegon was not able to convert on the lengthy power play, and that’s when the tide turned for the Stars.

“Our power play, which has been getting better, didn’t help us tonight,” LaFontaine said. “We had a couple open nets on that 5-on-3 and we just didn’t bury them. That may have given them some momentum. We’ve got to continue to work on our (special teams).”

Schultz scored a power play goal at 12:36 for Lincoln, with assists from Ethen Frank and Green, to cut the deficit to 3-2.

Schultz tied the game at 16:43 with an assist from Lincoln captain Dylan Woolf.

Muskegon outshot the Stars 6-4 in the overtime period and controlled much of the play, but neither team was able to score and end the game.

Svechnikov was the only scorer for the Lumberjacks in the shootout, but his goal put the home team over the top. Muskegon goalie Adam Brizgala stopped all three Lincoln shooters.