Lumberjacks battle in opposition to a struggling Youngstown squad, however scored two late targets to seize a 7-5 victory

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By Dave Hart and Steve Gunn
LocalSportsJournal.com

MUSKEGON – It is becoming increasingly important for the Muskegon Lumberjacks to beat the teams they are supposed to beat.

The Jacks have only 14 games left in the regular season and are fighting a close battle with Green Bay for second place in the USHL Eastern Conference. The second-placed team receives a home advantage in the first round of the playoffs, which are a three-game series. All games are played in the higher seed arena.

Nine of the Jacks’ remaining games are against teams that are unlikely to make the playoffs, and beating them is crucial if they are to fight for first place in the conference, or at least finish second.

Muskegon opened a three-game home series on Thursday with the Youngstown Phantoms, one of the outside teams, looking inside.

Cameron Berg fights for the puck along the boards for Muskegon. Photo / Jason Goorman

After a slow start, the Lumberjacks found a way to win the start of the series by defeating the Phantoms 7-5 at the Mercy Health Arena. The Jacks took the lead by two goals in the third half but scored two late goals to freeze the win, including game winner Nick Portz by just under a minute.

The Lumberjacks are currently 26-12-3 in the season, good for 55 points and second place in the conference. Muskegon is seven points behind first place in Chicago Steel and three points behind third in Green Bay.

Muskegon, who has currently won five games, will again host the Phantoms on Friday and Saturday nights.

“There is no easy game in our league,” said Lumberjacks coach Mike Hamilton. “But we have to keep playing and try to find a way to win hockey games.

“We were really good in the second period. We had them pinned in the zone and that was our best phase of the game, but we took our foot off the pedal in the third phase. We had too many sales and our goalkeeping game was average. The good thing is that you occasionally get out of your game and still find a way to win, and that is what we did tonight. “

The Phantoms opened the scoring with a power play goal from Cole Burtch at 3:15 in the first half.

No. 7 Philip Tresca takes the puck for Muskegon around the Youngstown net. Photo / Jason Goorman

The lumberjacks responded with two goals 25 seconds apart and achieved a 2-1 advantage.

Cristophe Tellier brought Muskegon onto the board with one stroke from the right circle at the 9:05 mark of the first period. Then Danil Gushchin put the puck on a shot from the left circle into the net at 9:30 a.m. and gave the Jacks a 2-1 lead.

The Phantoms pulled their starting goalkeeper Colin Purcell after Gushchin’s goal in favor of Mattias Sholl.

Youngstown slid the puck into the Muskegon net when the buzzer sounded at the end of the first half and the game ended 2-2. Georgil Merkulov was credited with the goal.

The lumberjacks had a chance to regain their advantage at 5:34 of the second half with a penalty from captain Dylan Wendt, who tripped as he headed for goal on a runaway. But Wendt couldn’t use his 1-1 chance against Sholl.

The Lumberjacks took a 3-2 lead after Jack Williams scored a shot from the lower right circle in the 15-13 goal in the second half. Youngstown responded 23 seconds later with Burtch’s second goal of the competition.

Muskegon regained his lead at 17:05 in the second half after a beautiful goal from Cameron Berg, who took a Jacob Guevin pass off the left boards and shot from the right in front of the Phantoms’ net.

The lumberjacks led 4: 3 into the final phase and had a lead of 30:12 in the shots.

Muskegon extended his lead with a goal from Bradley Marek in just 54 seconds in the third half and appeared to be on the way to victory. But Youngstown wasn’t done fighting.

Burtch finished a hat trick with his third goal of the competition 1:56 in the third period, finishing with a 5-4 result. Youngstown linked the game with a goal from Jack Larrigan to make it 9:51.

Portz scored the game-winning goal for the Jacks by 59 seconds after receiving a pass from Gushchin while running in the middle of the ice.

Williams ended the classification with an empty net balance 29 seconds before the end.

The Lumberjacks outstripped Youngstown by a 45-23 lead. Muskegon goalkeeper Jan Skorpik stopped 18 of 23 shots in the net.