By Steve Gunn

MUSKEGON – Under normal circumstances, blowing a two-goal lead in the third period might take the steam out of a hockey team.

But the Muskegon Lumberjacks have been anything but normal lately.

The Jacks jumped out to a quick three-goal lead on Friday against Dubuque, then allowed the Fighting Saints to come all the way back and tie the game and force overtime.

The seven-minute overtime period was scoreless, and the Lumberjacks found themselves in an overtime shootout for the second game in a row.

The Jacks scored on the second of their two shootout efforts when Andrei Svechnikov maneuvered a beautiful backhand shot past Dubuque goalie Evan Fear.

Meanwhile, Muskegon goalie Keith Petruzzelli was perfect in the shootout, stopping two Dubuque shots, and watching the third fly over the goal, giving the Lumberjacks another thrilling victory, 4-3, in front of 1,828 fans at L. C. Walker Arena.

The win was the Lumberjacks’ fifth in a row, and eighth in their last nine games. They are now 23-12-2 and in third place in the USHL’s Eastern Conference, only one point behind second-place Dubuque.

Keeghan Howdeshell looks to control the puck as Brendan Bushy defends for Dubuque. Photo/Jason Goorman

The Jacks will host Dubuque again on Saturday at 7:15 p.m., with a chance to leapfrog the visitors in the standings.

The shootout victory was the second in a row for Petruzzelli. He stopped an incredible nine shootout attempts last Saturday in Muskegon’s 1-0 victory over Green Bay, before calmly turning away Dubuque’s shots on Friday.

“Shootouts have been going well all season,” Petruzzelli said. “I feel like I prepare well because the guys in practice have been given me good moves.

“The guys are gelling right now. We are definitely on a hot streak, and I think there are greater times to come.”

Lumberjacks Coach John LaFontaine was disappointed that the Jacks lost the lead and were forced into overtime, but happy that they secured the victory.

“We had a little letdown in the third,” the coach said. “But sometimes you’ve got to find a way to win, and we beat a heck of a team. We will learn from it and be better tomorrow.”

The game was special for Muskegon’s leading scorer, Collin Adams, who notched his 100th career point with an assist in the first period, on the Lumberjacks’ third goal.

Collin Adams brings the puck out for Muskegon. Photo/Jason Goorman

Adams now has 19 goals and 20 assists this season for 39 points. Last season he had 27 goals and 34 assists for 61 points.

“Collin is gifted and blessed with skill,” LaFontaine said. “He just keeps getting better. It goes unnoticed, but his defense has been phenomenal over last few months. He is becoming a complete player, which means a lot to his teammates.”

The Lumberjacks came out sizzling against Dubuque, grabbing a 3-0 lead before some fans had even settled in their seats.

Matt Steeves opened the scoring for the Jacks just 38 seconds into the contest. Mikael Hakkarainen added a goal at the 2:57 mark and Svechnikov found the net at 4:20.

Dubuque had a glorious opportunity to cut its deficit with a four-minute power play at the 8:10 mark of the first period, but the Lumberjacks killed off the Fighting Saints’ long advantage.

The Jacks were effective in penalty killing all night, holding Dubuque to one goal on six opportunities.

The Fighting Saints got on the scoreboard with a goal by Colin Theisen at 17:24 mark of the first period.

The second period was scoreless, and Muskegon went into the third with a 3-1 lead.

But Dubuque came roaring back in the third period with a pair of late goals by Quinn Preston (15:24) and Thiesen (16:59) to tie the game and force overtime and then the dramatic shootout.