By Steve Gunn

MUSKEGON – Muskegon hockey fans didn’t see much of Jordan Timmons when he played for the Lumberjacks last season.

He only played 19 games before being traded.

But the Jacks and their fans saw more than enough of Timmons on Saturday night, when he scored a three-goal hat trick, including the game winner in the third period, to give the Cedar Rapids Roughriders a 4-2 come-from-behind victory over Muskegon in front of 2,138 fans at L.C. Walker Arena.

The Lumberjacks, who blew two different leads, missed a golden opportunity to move a lot closer to clinching a playoff spot.

They came into the game with a magic number of nine points to secure a spot in the Clark Cup playoffs.

A victory would have cut it to five points. Two points would have been shaved off with the victory, and two more because of a Cedar Rapids loss, since the Roughriders are currently the top team outside of the playoff picture in the USHL’s Eastern Conference.

Muskegon’s Vincent De Mey leverges a check on Cedar Rapids’ No. 22 Graham Slaggert. Photo/Mitchell Dixon MSD Photography

But the Jacks didn’t win, the Roughriders didn’t lose, and the magic number remains at nine.

The Lumberjacks fell to 28-22-2 and in third place in the Eastern Conference, two points behind second-place Youngstown. They have eight games left in the regular season, including two next weekend on Friday and Saturday night in Madison, Wisconsin against the Capitols.

Lumberjacks Coach John LaFontaine credited Timmons, a former first-round draft pick for Muskegon, and his teammates for fighting hard all weekend. The Roughriders are battling to get into sixth place for the last available playoff spot.

“Jordan played well and they are desperate,” LaFontaine said. “They battled hard and came out with a game plan. I thought we played hard too, and we played good. Just a couple of bounces cost us, and their top line cost us.”

On paper, the Lumberjacks shouldn’t have had a problem scoring against Cedar Rapids. They are fourth in total goals in the 17-team league, and have a bunch of guys who can puck the puck in the net, including USHL scoring leader Anthony Del Gaizo.

But they struggled to score all weekend.

On Friday the Roughriders held the Jacks scoreless for two and a half periods, before Muskegon rallied and won 2-1 on overtime.

On Saturday two goals weren’t enough to get the job done.

Muskegon’s Anthony Del Gaizo holds the puck under his skate while battling No. 7 Kyle Looft. Photo/Mitchell Dixon MSD Photography

“I thought they had really good goaltending and really packed it in,” LaFontaine said. “They had five guys around the goal all weekend.”

The Jacks took a 1-0 lead with a goal from Matej Pekar at 5:39 of the first period.

Cedar Rapids’ Liam Walsh tied the game at 1-1 with a goal at 11:30 of the second period.

Muskegon went up 2-1 when Vincent de Mey notched his 17th goal of the season at 17:53 of the second period. But Cedar Rapids tied the score again with a goal by Timmons less than a minute later.

The goal was disputed because the Lumberjacks’┬ánet came loose during the flurry around the net. But the referees reviewed the play and called the goal good.

Timmons put Cedar Rapids up for good with the game-winning goal just 3:05 into the third period.

The Lumberjacks pulled goalie Keegan Karki for an extra attacker with 1:16 left in the game. But the strategy was short-lived, because Muskegon received a two-minute penalty for having too many men on the ice with 43 seconds left.

“One of our forwards jumped too early and one didn’t come off soon enough,” LaFontaine said. “I have to figure out who jumped.”

The Jacks pulled Karki again when they got the puck in Cedar Rapids’ zone, but the Roughriders regained possession and Timmons finished things off with an empty-net goal with 16 seconds remaining.

Muskegon had a 33-30 advantage in shots. Cedar Rapids goalie Jiri Patera got the win.