By Steve Gunn and Dave Hart

MUSIKEGON – When you’re playing a first-place team two nights in a row, and fortunate enough to get a lead in each game, you’d better find a way to seal the deal.

The Muskegon Lumberjacks couldn’t do that this weekend, and walked away with a pair of disappointing losses.

On Friday the Jacks led the first-place Tri-City Storm by one goal with 28 seconds left, but the Storm scored, forced overtime and won in a shootout.

On Saturday the Lumberjacks grabbed a 1-0 lead after one period, but came out on the short end of a 4-2 final score in front of 1,762 fans at L.C. Walker Arena.

Muskegon, which fell to 3-5-1 on the season, will return to action Wednesday at home against Central Illinois in their annual morning game. Puck drop is 10:30 a.m.

Nash Nienhuis looks to control the puck while No. 3 Bray Crowder watches. Photo/Jason Goorman

Lumberjacks Coach John LaFontaine said his team shows flashes, but needs to play well for entire games.

“We’ve had a few leads and we’ve played well for 40 or 50 out of 60 minutes,” the coach said. “We need to be a better third period team.

“The worst part of this game was the first 10 minutes of the third when we weren’t making strong plays in our own end or moving it quickly enough, and then we kind of adjusted and got better after that. I was happy for about 50 of the 60 minutes in the game.”

The loss illustrated the Jacks’ continuing offensive woes. They scored three or fewer goals for the eighth time in nine games this season, and are tied for last in the USHL with 18 total goals.

Chicago leads the league with 43 goals.

“We haven’t produced a lot of offense to step on their necks (when leading), and the scoring depth hasn’t fully developed yet,” LaFontaine said. “We’re working on that.

Muskegon’s Wyatt Bongiovanni fights for the puck against Tri-City’s No. 25 Connor McMenamin and Michael Maloney. Photo/Jason Goorman

“There are still quite a few shots that we’re passing up, but we’re going to the net a little better and creating more opportunities. The players are still adjusting to this level.”

The Jacks came out aggressively in the first period on Saturday, outshooting the Storm 13-12.

They grabbed a 1-0 lead at the 6:35 mark when captain Anthony Del Gaizo took a centering pass from Matej Pekar and buried his fifth goal of the season,

But the Storm grabbed the lead for good in the second period with goals from Joey Cipollone and Johnny McDermott.

Michael Maloney scored at 7:31 of the third period to give Tri-City a 3-1 lead.

The Lumberjacks showed some fight when Clayton Phillips scored a power play goal with a high wrist shot from the top of the circle at the 12:25 mark of the third period, making the score 3-2.

But the Jacks hurt themselves when Phillips was called for a two minute minor penalty with one minute left, and the Storm took advantage with a power play goal from Hugo Blixt with 49 seconds left .

The loss ruined the debut of new Lumberjacks backup goalie Keegan Karki, who stopped 22 of 26 shots.