Omaha roars back to beat Jacks
December 10, 2011
Travis Belohrad's early goal was greeted by hundreds of stuffed toys on Teddy Bear Toss night, but the visiting Lancers skated away with their 5th straight win
by Matt Gajtka
MUSKEGON, Mich. – The Muskegon Lumberjacks scored the first two goals, but the streaking Omaha Lancers rattled off seven of the game’s last eight tallies to win 7-3 at L.C. Walker Arena Saturday night.
Travis Belohrad extended his scoring streak to five with the only goal of the first period, triggering an avalanche of stuffed toys on Teddy Bear Toss night. Mike McNicholas then tickled the twine with his inaugural USHL red light early in the second, and the evening seemingly belonged to Muskegon.
But the Lancers (14-8-2, 30 points) leapt back into the proceedings with four unanswered goals, the first three coming just 2:10 apart. Even though Alex Smith netted his first league goal late in the second, first-place Omaha was undaunted and scored three in the third to ice its fifth consecutive win.
The Lumberjacks (8-11-0, 16 points) fell to 5-5-0 at home, only their second loss in five games against Western Conference teams. Muskegon now faces a seven-day break before returning to the ice next Saturday to face the National Team Development Program.
Despite the loss, Teddy Bear Toss presented by First General Credit Union was a huge success, as hundreds of stuffed toys hit the ice after Belohrad banked in his eighth of the season from below the goal line 14 minutes in. Lancers goalie Alex Lyon was unable to recover after Matt DeBlouw’s shot ripped wide and bounced to the crafty Belohrad.
What would become an action-filled second stanza began with McNicholas scoring unassisted with a breathtaking rush down the right wing. The rookie lifted a backhander over Lyon’s glove at 3:05. Soon after that, new Lumberjack Rudy Sulmonte rang an open shot off the post, nearly making it 3-0 Muskegon.
But about five minutes later, the game was suddenly tied as the Jacks got into penalty trouble. Kenney Morrison blasted a slap shot under former Lancer goalie John Keeney during a 5-on-3 power play at 7:20. 61 seconds later, Anthony Hamburg’s perfectly placed wrister knotted things up just after a Muskegon penalty expired.
The Lumberjacks got a look at a power play of their own immediately following, however the Lancers took advantage of a defensive lapse to score shorthanded and take their first lead at 9:30. Ken Babinsky appeared to be covered in the right corner, but he found a way to slip a centering pass to Michael Farrentino, who converted from close range.
Later in the period, Jacks leading scorer John Padulo barely missed punching in the team's first shorthanded goal of the season, which would've tied the score 3-3. As happens often in hockey, the scales tipped back the other way quickly.
Tanner Lane popped in Omaha’s second power play goal of the night – the Lancers finished 3-for-9 – to extend the lead to 4-2, but Smith followed about two minutes later to trim Muskegon’s deficit to one goal heading for the third. Adam Chlapik and Travis Walsh earned assists on the man-advantage goal, a gorgeous rising wrist shot from 40-plus feet away.
Any hopes of a Muskegon comeback faded after the Lancers struck for a quick three-spot to start the final frame, as Babinsky, Jimmy Murray and Casey Bailey all connected in the opening 7:21.
Murray, who leads the USHL in assists with 22, finished with two helpers on the night, as did Omaha defenseman Nolan Zajac. Greg Gozzo had two assists as well, making it seven Lancers with multiple points on the evening.
Click here for complete box score.
The Jacks are back in action next Saturday night as they travel to Ann Arbor to face the USNTDP’s Under-18 squad at 7:05 p.m. The Meijer Pregame Show begins at 6:35 on the radio home of your Lumberjacks, 92.5 The Outlaw.
Call the L.C. Walker Arena box office at 231.724.JACK(5225) for Lumberjacks tickets and information, or visit startickets.com or go to your local Meijer.
The Muskegon Lumberjacks are proud members of the United States Hockey League, the nation’s only Tier I junior hockey league and the leading producer of NCAA players and National Hockey League draft picks in the United States. The Lumberjacks’ organization prides itself on developing not just premier hockey talent, but also exceptional young men outside the arena of sports. For more information, visit muskegonlumberjacks.com.