By Steve Gunn

MUSKEGON – The Muskegon Lumberjacks have shown a great ability to bounce back all season.

They overcame a horrible start to the season and climbed over the .500 mark and back into contention in the USHL Eastern Conference race.

And lately they’ve suffered a few one-sided losses, only to regroup each time and win the next two games.

Now they will have to demonstrate their resilience again, because Friday night’s loss was a tough one to swallow.

The Lumberjacks led the visiting Madison Capitols after the first and second periods. And they completely dominated the game offensively, outshooting the Caps 58-28.

But they fell apart in the third period, giving up three unanswered goals and losing 5-3 in front of 1,686 fans at L.C. Walker Arena.

It was the second straight loss for the Jacks, who fell to 19-17-2 on the season.

Muskegon’s Jachym Kondelik tries to control the puck while being hooked. Photo/Mitchell Dixon MSD Photography

The Lumberjacks and Capitols will square off again on Saturday night in Muskegon at 7:15 p.m.

“They are a good team,” Lumberjacks Coach John LaFontaine said about Madison. “They bend but they don’t break. They absorb the shots and are ready to jump on any mistakes. They jumped on our mistakes.”

The Lumberjacks had two big problems in the game.

The first was Madison goalie Dryden McLay, who was peppered with shots all night long but stood his ground, particularly when it mattered the most.

He turned away 20 shots in the crucial third period and kept the Jacks off the scoreboard down the stretch.

The Lumberjacks also had a few turnovers and defensive lapses, which allowed the opportunistic Capitols to score easy goals.

But LaFontaine took the loss calmly, saying his team simply has to correct its errors and move forward.

“We just have to be smarter,” he said. “When we make (defensive) mistakes, it can’t be a breakaway or a 2-on-1. We have to be smarter defensively. It was four or five plays where we had to be smarter or better.”

The Jacks led 1-0 after the first period following a goal by Marc Del Gaizo.

Bobby Kaiser makes the pass for Muskegon. Photo/Mitchell Dixon MSD Photography

Madison tied the score 1-1 at 2:32 of the second period with a tally from Alexander Broetzman. The Jacks went up 2-1 just over two minutes later when Anthony Del Gaizo scored his league-leading 28th goal of the season.

Kamil Sadlocha scored for Madison at 17:13 of the second period, tying the game 2-2. Then the Jacks jumped on top again, just over a minute later, when Vincent de Mey found the net.

But the third period was all Madison, which stole the win with goals by Brendan Walkom, Broetzman and Verners Egle. The Capitols’ last two goals came in the final five minutes of the contest.

Bray Crowder had a pair of assists for Muskegon. Goalie Jach Borgiel took the loss.