The Muskegon Lumberjacks and their postseason destiny were on high alert entering this weekend’s matchup with second-place Dubuque.
Muskegon secured an all-important win on Saturday night and did it with an exciting 4-3 victory over Dubuque for the second time in two nights at Mercy Health Arena.
The Lumberjacks entered the weekend on a major losing skid that saw the club go from first place, all the way to third place in the matter of a month. The dismal streak was concluded with the Jacks losing their last five out of six games.
That bad taste was all washed out with Saturday’s win and the weekend sweep of visiting Dubuque.
Muskegon found its lift late in the game on the team’s only power play goal of the night, coming from Owen Mehlenbacher. The tally came with eight minutes left in the third period on feeds from Jake Richard and Jacob Braccini.
The Lumberjacks started the contest strong, taking a 2-0 lead after the first period with goals from Gavin McCarthy and Joey Larson.
Dubuque responded with two second period goals while shutting out the Lumberjacks in the middle 20 minutes.
Phillip Tresca put Muskegon up 3-2 to start the third period but Dubuque responded just four minutes later to tie the score.
Muskegon defense was backed by a 35-24 shots on goal advantage and managed to close out the Fighting Saints in the final eight minutes.
The Lumberjacks held off Dubuque in the third without giving up any tough penalties. Tresca did get a tripping call against him, but that came with nine seconds remaining in the game.
Aleksandr Kuleshov posted his second win in as many nights in goal for Muskegon, making 21 saves to improve to 12-4 this season.
The Lumberjacks are now in solid command of third place and a playoff spot with a 27-17-3-3 record, good enough for 60 points. Muskegon is seven points ahead of fourth-place Youngstown and seven behind Dubuque.
How the Lumberjacks do in their last 12 games will have a big bearing on their momentum swing into the playoffs. They will be challenged in their last nine of ten games as the Jacks will close out the season on the road with its last game at home on April 23 against Chicago.
Muskegon will play its last two-game home stand of the regular season next weekend when it hosts Green Bay on Friday and Saturday.
Check out photos from the night shot by Sondra Workman.