The midpoint of any season can seem like there’s still a long way to go to the postseason, especially in the United States Hockey League.

With six teams currently competing for second place of the Eastern Conference, the Muskegon Lumberjacks know the pressure is on to start playing their best hockey as the chips begin to fall in place.

Muskegon has won just four out of its last 10 games and its 3-1 win over visiting Youngstown on Friday night was no doubt important.

The Lumberjacks struggled to find the net in the first period but William Hughes changed that in the second. Hughes netted his third goal as a Lumberjack this season on assists from Matei Gridin and Owen Keefe with 12 minutes left to play in the middle period.

Sacha Boisvert gave Muskegon some breathing room midway through the third period on his 11th goal of the season, the Lumberjacks’ first and only power-play tally of the night. Nathan McBrayer and Ethan Whitcomb assisted on the play, putting the Lumberjacks up 2-0.

Muskegon was 1 of 4 on the power play for the night and held Youngstown scoreless on two penalty kills.

The Phantoms were able to respond with six minutes left in the contest on Shane Lachance’s 18th goal of the season. But Whitcomb closed the door for Muskegon with an empty net goal on an assist from Jake Richard.

The Lumberjacks outshot Youngstown 36-27, while Muskegon goalie Ryathan Robbins posted his second win of the season with 26 saves.

With Chicago currently in first place of the Eastern Conference with 44 points, there will be a lot of questions of who can catch the talented Steel team.

The Lumberjacks are currently sitting squished in the middle of the Eastern Conference and are tied in third place with Cedar Rapids as both teams have 33 points. Green Bay is sitting in second place with 36 points while Youngstown (32) and Dubuque (30) are right behind Muskegon.

January will be an important month for Muskegon in its race for the postseason. While a lot can happen in the next four months, the games will no doubt go by quickly.

The Lumberjacks return to Trinity Health Arena on Saturday to faceoff again with Youngstown for a 7:10 puck drop.

Check out photos from the Muskegon win on Friday at Trinity Health Arena, shot by Sondra Workman.