Hakkarainen’s three first-period goals lead surging Lumberjacks to a 6-3 morning victory


Mikael Hakkarainen is back in the lineup, and suddenly the Muskegon Lumberjacks are very hot.

Hakkarainen exploded for three goals – all in the first period – to lead the Lumberjacks to a 6-3 victory over the elite Team USA Under 18 squad in a morning game on Tuesday in Plymouth, Michigan.

The victory was the fourth in a row for the suddenly surging Lumberjacks, who improved to 10-11-2 on the season. Muskegon has now won six of its last eight games, following a five-game losing streak in November.

Suddenly the Jacks, who lost week were mired in eighth place in the nine-team USHL Eastern Conference, are tied with Cedar Rapids for fifth place with 22 points.

Muskegon is only two points out of fourth place, three out of third, four out of second and six points out of first place.

The Jacks took a 1-0 lead on a goal by Emilio Petterson (assist Vincent de Mey) at 1:15 of the first period.

Then Hakkarainen, who recently returned to duty after missing nearly two months due to head injuries, gave the Lumberjacks a huge cushion with his first-period hat trick.

He scored a pair of power play goals at 9:09 and 16:07, with an assist from Marc Del Gaizo each time.

Hakkarainen added a goal at 17:50 of the first period (assists by Anthony Del Gaizo and Colby Bukes) to give the Jacks a 4-0 lead at the first break.

Wyatt Bongoivanni gave Muskegon a 5-0 lead with a shorthanded goal at 12:11 of the second period, with an assist from Pettersen. Team USA scored later in the period, and the Jacks had a 5-1 edge after two.

Bongiovanni scored again at 11:26 of the third period (assists by Pettersen and Nash Neinhuis) to put Muskegon up 6-1.

Team USA closed the game with a pair of goals, but it was too little, too late.

The Lumberjacks’ penalty killing was outstanding in the game, keeping Team USA scoreless on 11 power play opportunities.

Muskegon goalie Keegan Karki collected the victory, stopping 27 of 30 shots. Team USA outshot the Jacks 30-23.

The Lumberjacks will return to action on Dec. 29 at home against the Team USA Under 17 squad.

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