By Ron Rop
Earlier in the week, the Lumberjacks swapped out their No. 1 goaltenders and brought in highly touted Russian netminder Platon Zadorozhny. The visiting Dubuque Fighting Saints skated off with a 7-4 victory in the first of two games this weekend at Mercy Health Arena.
While the stat sheet will show Zadorozhny allowed six of those goals – the seventh was into an empty net – Muskegon coach Mike Hamilton put little, or no, blame on his new goaltender.
Instead, he pointed squarely at his defense, which was supposed to be a team strength.
“At the end of the day, goaltender was not the issue again,” Hamilton said. “You can’t give up seven goals and expect to win many hockey games. I bet when I get the report back we’re going to have 15 odd-man rushes against, I’m just throwing that number out there. But at the end of the day, we had ‘D’ that were too active and too far up in the rush. That team is too good to be giving odd-man rushes time after time.”
After chatting with his new goaltender and observing him in practice on Thursday, Hamilton said he was ready to make his debut.
“We figured he was going to be a little tired,” Hamilton said. “He had a really good practice (Thursday) so we thought he was ready to go. I thought he had a great start. We were down 1-0 after the first and we didn’t play great and he kept us in it.”
Most of the damage was done after a solid first period that saw the visitors score the lone goal and take a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes.
The middle period was a whole different story as the offenses opened up and scored a combined seven goals, including three for Muskegon and four for Dubuque. Giving up large goal totals in a single period has been a downfall of Muskegon in recent games.
Muskegon never led or was even tied on Friday night. Each time the Jacks got to within a single goal, the Fighting Saints would push it back to two or more.
Dubuque took a 2-0 lead in the second period, but Muskegon got on the board less than 2 minutes later on Nick Peluso’s first goal, and point, of the season. Ben Strinden, stationed down low, fed the puck out front for a high wrist shot from Peluso that beat Saints goaltender Philip Svedeback.
Less than 2 minutes later, Dubuque restored its two-goal lead at 3-1.
But again, Muskegon had a quick answer. This time, it took just 23 seconds for Phil Tresca to score on a breakaway. It was his second goal of the season.
Less than 1 minute later, Dubuque scored again and four minutes later, Quinn Hutson scored on a Muskegon breakaway to make it 4-3.
The goal that really stung came with 13 seconds left in the period. Riley Stuart hit the back of the net with a wrist shot from the left faceoff circle.
Dubuque led 5-3 after two periods.
The lead grew to 6-3 at the 5:50 mark of the third period on a shot by Kenny Connors that hit the stick of Zadorozhny and trickled over the goal line.
Hutson scored his second of the night at 10:12 to cap the Lumberjacks’ scoring for the night. For Hutson, it was his sixth goal of the season.
Hamilton pulled Zadorozhny to the bench with 2:41 left in favor of an extra skater, but that backfired when Ryan Beck scored into the empty net.
Both teams finished with 35 shots on goal.
Heading into tonight’s game, Dubuque is 5-0-2-2 while Muskegon’s struggles continue at 1-6-1-1.
Check out a photos from the action shot by Sondra Workman.