Lumberjacks continue red-hot start with a 6-0 win over Chicago in home opener

By Steve Gunn and Dave Hart
LocalSportsJournal.com

MUSKEGON – The new and improved Muskegon Lumberjacks finally returned to the newly renovated L.C. Walker Arena on Saturday, and continued what they’ve been doing on the road for two weeks:

Playing some very impressive hockey, on both ends of the ice.

Matt Staudacher tries to control the puck on the offensive attack for Muskegon. Photo/Leo Valdez

The Jacks, under new coach Mike Hamilton, improved to 5-0 on the young season with a dominant 6-0 victory over the Chicago Steel in their season home opener in front of 3,009 fans.

Muskegon will complete the weekend with another home game on Sunday against Youngstown at 3:15 p.m.

The Jacks came into the game with a four-game road winning streak to start the season. They outscored their opponents 15-7 during that stretch.

Some fans were probably wondering if the Jacks might really be that good – and the answer might just be yes.

Hamilton, who collected his first home victory behind the Muskegon bench, was happy with the performance, but was not ready to get too excited about the hot start.

“It was a great team effort tonight,” the coach said. “We knew we had a special group that works hard and can compete on a daily basis. But our focus is to continue to work hard, and the wins are just coming from working hard.

“We are smothering on pucks when we don’t have them, and guys are going to the net. That was just a solid team effort all across the board, and I am really happy, but I didn’t expect it.”

The Lumberjacks led 2-0 after one period, 5-0 after two, then added a goal for good measure in the third.

Muskegon’s Nash Nienhuis cuts back on a move toward the puck. Photo/Leo Valdez

Forward Jagger Joshua led the offensive fireworks with a pair of goals. Daniil Gushchin added a goal and two assists, and Hunter Skinner had two assists.

Other goal scorers for the Jacks were Nolan Sullivan, Mikael Hakkarainen and John Farinacci.

Muskegon outshot Chicago 41-24.

On the other end of the rink, new Lumberjacks goalie Brandon Bussi continued his very hot streak, collecting his second straight shutout and extending his string of perfect periods to seven.

“Bus has been rock solid for us all year, and he’s one of the reasons for our success,” Hamilton said. “He has kept us in games where we have been outworked. We are real happy for him. He was a find for us on the free agent side, and he’s stepped into the role.”

Bussi credited the Lumberjack defense for keeping Chicago from mounting too much of a threat.

“During the last two games the team has played the best defensively, and tonight’s game was all about the defense,” Bussi said.

“It’s a great start, and the atmosphere was unbelievable tonight.”

The Jacks’ special teams were also impressive. They scored three goals on six power play opportunities, while the penalty killers shut down Chicago on five power plays.

Both of Joshua’s goals came on the power play, along with Farinacci’s.

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