By Steve Gunn and Dave Hart
MUSKEGON – It seems odd for the Muskegon Lumberjacks to go two straight games without a victory, after their recent seven-game winning streak that put the team near the top of the conference standings.
But in case any fans forget, the Lumberjacks opened the season with four straight losses before ripping off those seven wins.
In other words, there’s no need to fret too much following Friday’s 5-1 loss to the Green Bay Gamblers at L.C. Walker Arena.
The Lumberjacks lost the chance to set a new franchise record for consecutive games of earning at least a point in the standings. They tied the record at eight with an overtime loss last Saturday, but couldn’t get the tie-breaker.
Muskegon also lost an opportunity to possibly move into a tie for first place in the USHL’s Eastern Conference standings. They came in only two points (one victory) behind Dubuque and Chicago.
The Jacks, now 7-5-1, will try to get even in a rematch on Saturday in the second game of the weekend home stand against the Gamblers. Puck drop is slated for 7:05 p.m.
“We didn’t play with passion tonight and that is going to happen,” said Lumberjacks Coach Mike Hamilton. “You are going to lose some hockey games, but you have to show up and compete and we didn’t do that today.
“It was one of those nights when I wish our guys were professionals. I’d collect all the money they made and give it back to the fans for their ticket stubs.”
The Lumberjacks actually played Green Bay pretty even for most of the contest, which featured a lot of fast-paced, up-and-down action and plenty of scoring opportunities for both teams. Muskegon actually outshot Green Bay 30-27.
Muskegon just had trouble getting the puck past Green Bay goalie Gavin Enright, who made a lot of impressive saves after giving up an early goal, and hung tough despite operating in heavy traffic around the net.
“Their goalie made some good saves, but I thought we shot selfishly, and in this league you have to shoot with a purpose,” Hamilton said.
Muskegon opened the scoring at 6:30 of the first period when Tanner Edwards popped in a rebound from close range on a power play. It was Edwards’ seventh goal of the season. Christophe Fillion and Jack Williams assisted on the tally.
Green Bay tied the game at the 12:36 mark when Jesse Tucker broke in alone and put the puck past Lumberjacks goalie Noah Giesbrecht.
The Jacks killed off a Green Bay power play late in the period, but the Gamblers tied the game 1-1 just seconds later when Noah Ganske found the mark from the top of the left faceoff circle.
Green Bay led 2-1 after one period.
The Jacks had a golden opportunity to tie things up midway through the second period, when Green Bay was whistled for two quick penalties, giving Muskegon a two-skater advantage for 1:48.
But the Jacks couldn’t muster much of a power play and failed to cash in, and the second period was scoreless.
Green Bay’s Ryan O’Reilly made the score 3-1 with a goal at 6:48 of the third period. The Jacks pulled their goalie for an extra attacker at 16:57, and O’Reilly took advantage with an empty-net goal at 17:08.
The visitors finally wrapped up the scoring with a goal by Dylan Wendt at 18:32.