By Justin Haggerty
MUSKEGON – It’s never easy to beat a good team two nights in a row.
The Des Moines Buccaneers are a pretty good team – and apparently have a pretty good goaltender.
The Lumberjacks beat the Des Moines Buccaneers Friday night 5-3, but the Bucs returned to L.C. Walker Arena looking for revenge on Saturday.
Neither team was able to get on the board until midway through the third period, but Des Moines exacted its revenge with a 2-0 victory in front of 2,497 disappointed fans.
The loss drops Muskegon to 25-14-3 for the season and they remain in fourth place in the USHL’s Eastern Conference.
“We played a good first (period), we played an OK second, in the third period they dominated,” Muskegon head coach John LaFontaine said. “We didn’t want to be on our heels, but a little selfishness, a little trying too much instead of taking what they’d give us…
“We stopped generating any offensive opportunities. We couldn’t get anything, we couldn’t get in on (Des Moines goaltender Jan Ruzicka) because we were turning the puck over or didn’t have anyone to support us getting in on him.”
The Lumberjacks came out flying in the first period, outshooting the Buccaneers 10-2 in the first 10 minutes, but could not beat Ruzikca. The first period ended with no goals and no penalties for either team and Muskegon leading 13-4 in shots.
The second went much the same as the first, with Muskegon dominating the offensive zone but unable to solve Ruzicka. Through two periods, Ruzicka made 25 saves while his teammates mustered just 10 shots of their own.
Des Moines came out firing on all cylinders in the third period, and Lumberjacks goalie Adam Brizgala was up to the challenge – except for one shot.
Former Lumberjack Scooter Brickey beat Brizgala with a hard wrist shot from between the face-off circles at 11:44 of the third to break the scoreless tie.
Brickey was just traded to Des Moines in late January.
The Buccaneers appeared to score again at the 14:27 mark, but after speaking with the goal judge, referee Jim White waived off the goal.
LaFontaine pulled Brizgala for an extra attacker with 1:58 remaining, but Des Moines iced the game 32-seconds later when Mario Ferraro launched a shot from his own zone into the empty net.
“As a coach, it’s our job to prepare them better for what they started to do to us, and we just didn’t get over the hump,” LaFontaine said. “It was a great crowd, I wish we could have won one for them.”