But the Lumberjacks woke up, scoring two late second-period goals and the lone tally of the third to pick up a 3-2 victory at the Mystique Ice Center.
Will Smith scored the game-winning goal with 1:58 left in regulation to give the Lumberjacks their first and final lead of the night.
Muskegon improved to 9-5 on the season, good for 18 points and third place in the USHL’s Eastern Conference.
The Lumberjacks managed to pick up two points in the standings over the weekend, despite being without forward Andrei Svechnikov and Jachym Kondelik, who are both playing in an international tournament, and Keeghan Howdeshell, who has a lower-body injury.
Muskegon also lost forward Casey Gilling during Saturday’s game due to an upper-body injury, which forced the Lumberjacks to play defensemen Marc Del Gaizo and Travis Mitchell at the forward position.
“It wasn’t a pretty win, it was more like a gritty win,” said Lumberjacks Coach John LaFontaine. “They (Dubuque) have a really good team. I’m proud on how the guys responded tonight. It didn’t look good even midway through the second period.”
The Fighting Saints jumped out to an early 1-0 lead on a goal from Taylor Brierley 1:37 into the first period.
Dubuque increased its lead to 2-0 at 2:15 of the first period on a goal by Quinn Preston.
Collin Adams scored at 14:49 mark of the second period to cut the Jacks’ deficit to 2-1. Matt Steeves and Garrett VanWyhe each picked up an assist on the goal.
Muskegon tied the game 2-2 just 2:23 later on a goal from Marc Del Gaizo, who scored for the first time in the USHL. Jordan Timmons notched the lone assist on the tally.
The Lumberjacks grabbed the lead with about two minutes left in the game with the goal by Smith. Bo Hanson and Keenan Suthers assisted on the game winner.
The Fighting Saints outshot Muskegon by a 24-19 margin.
Muskegon goaltender Keith Petruzzelli stopped 22 of 24 Dubuque shots to pick up the win.
The Lumberjacks will return home next weekend to host the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders on Saturday night and the Madison Capitols on Sunday afternoon.