By Steve Gunn and Dave Hart

MUSKEGON – The Muskegon Lumberjacks traded for forward Austin Alger last week to add some punch to their lineup.

He provided it at the perfect time on Friday night.

The Lumberjacks were in a 1-1 deadlock with the Youngstown Phantoms late in the third period. They were being outshot by more than 10 shots, and seemed lucky to still be in the game.

But Alger found himself with the puck between the faceoff circles in the Youngstown zone with 1:24 remaining, and calmly lifted a wrist shot past Phantom goalie Ivan Kulbakov, giving the Jacks an exciting 2-1 victory in front of 1,835 fans at L. C. Walker Arena.

“We have gone to overtime too many times with these guys,” said Lumberjacks Coach John LaFontaine. “It was great timing for him (Alger) to make a heck of a play.”

The Lumberjacks improved to 26-14-3 on the season, and moved into a tie with Youngstown for third place in the USHL’s Eastern Conference. Both teams have 55 points and are three points behind second-place Dubuque and five behind first-place Chicago.

Austin Alger pumps his fist and No. 15 Garrett Van Wyhe celebrates after Alger’s the game-winning goal. Photo/Jason Goorman

Muskegon will host Chicago on Saturday at 7:15 p.m.

The victory was extra sweet for the Lumberjacks, because they haven’t been scoring much lately.

Last Saturday they were shut out 2-0 by Des Moines, and went scoreless for more than a period and a half on Friday against Youngstown.

Andrei Svechnikov finally ended the scoring drought (which lasted for 89 minutes and 51 seconds) with his 21st goal of the season at 7:33 of the second period, tying the game 1-1.

That was all the offense Muskegon could muster until Alger scored the dramatic game-winner late in the contest.

The Jacks had their chances, with five power play opportunities against Youngstown, including four in the second period. But they only took advantage of one of those chances, on the game-tying goal by Svechnikov.

“When we look at the chances we had, we sat back and thought ‘Holy smokes that goalie was phenomenal,’ but give our guys credit because Youngstown plays a very stingy defense,” LaFontaine said. “Good teams find a way to win, so good for these guys.”

Lumberjacks forward Andrei Svechnikov looks for the wraparound shot on Youngstown goalie Ivan Kulbakov. Photo/Jason Goorman

The Jacks were able to stay in the game due to the goaltending of Keith Petruzzelli, who stopped 31 of 32 Youngstown shots, including many terrific saves in heavy traffic throughout the game. He improved his record to 14-8 on the season.

Youngstown outshot the Lumberjacks 32-21.

“We have done to other teams what they did to us tonight, where we outshoot them and out-chance them and walk away thinking ‘How did we lose the game?’” LaFontaine said. “It’s always because the other team’s goalie was phenomenal, and tonight Petruzzelli was.”

Youngstown’s only goal, scored by Austin Pooley, came at 3:12 of the second period.