Steel turns tables on Lumberjacks
January 7, 2012
Travis Belohrad's opening-minute goal got Muskegon off to a roaring start but Chicago rebounded for a 5-1 win Saturday at L.C. Walker Arena
by Matt Gajtka
MUSKEGON, Mich. – Despite a promising first period for the Muskegon Lumberjacks, the Chicago Steel survived the early onslaught and scored the final five goals in a 5-1 win Saturday night at L.C. Walker Arena.
Travis Belohrad’s goal in the opening minute electrified the lively home crowd, and Muskegon had multiple opportunities to extend the advantage later in the frame. However, Chicago goalie Mathias Dahlstrom rebounded to keep the Jacks off the board the rest of the way.
The Steel (9-18-1, 19 points) managed to draw even before the end of the first, and Ali Thomas’ second-period power play goal held up as the game winner after the visitors added three more in the third. Five different Chicago skaters scored a goal, with Thomas’ three-point night leading the way offensively.
Jordan Masters earned an assist, extending his scoring streak to two, as did Belohrad with his fourth “first goal” of the season. Paul Berrafato got the start in net for Muskegon (9-14-2, 20 points) for the first time since Nov. 26, stopping 30 shots and doing well to keep the home side in the game until late.
On the first game of a five-date homestand, the Lumberjacks dropped their second straight in regulation; they will try to break a four-game winless streak next Friday as they host Des Moines on Dollar Beer/Hot Dog Night presented by John Morrell. Chicago snapped a four-game losing streak, but it will face a tall task Sunday in an afternoon tilt at league-leading Green Bay.
A crowd of 2,169 took in the action and the Jacks had them up and screaming from the drop of the puck. After allowing early goals Thursday and Friday in Youngstown, the Jacks got off to a great start against the visiting Steel whenBelohrad swatted in his ninth of the season 53 seconds in, Muskegon’s quickest goal of the season.
Masters started the play, streaking down the right wing and ripping a shot off Dahlstrom’s right pad. The carom went right to Belohrad who was stationed at the left post for a backhand stash and a 1-0 Jacks lead.
Muskegon had three power play opportunities in the first and launched 15 shots on target in the period, but Dahlstrom did well to keep his team within range by making several difficult saves. The goalie’s effort paid off with less two minutes remaining in the first when Michael Vilardo sniffed out the rebound of Chris Joyaux’s point shot to tie the game.
New Steel forward Ray Pigozzi, acquired from Des Moines in a recent trade, centered for Thomas’ nifty finish at the top of the crease with 7:15 gone in the second. Thomas nearly mishandled the dish but got enough on a backhand shot to slip it under Berrafato.
Chicago carried the 2-1 edge into the third, but Tyler Heinonen came within an eyelash of knotting the score midway through the final period. Dahlstrom reached back on the goal line to deny Heinonen, who returned from a six-game absence due to injury, as the Minnesotan was hunting the rebound of a shot off the crossbar.
Not long after, Michael Fallon got credit for his team-leading 10th goal when his give-and-go pass for Charlie O’Connor bounced off Muskegon defenseman Nick Seeler and into the net with six minutes remaining.
Jimmy Devito and Phillip Marinaccio (empty net) piled on with late even-strength tallies, as the Steel closed out their fourth win in five tries against the Lumberjacks. The teams will meet three more times this season.
Click here for complete box score.
Muskegon entertains Des Moines next Friday on Dollar Beer/Hot Dog Night presented by John Morrell! Take advantage of the best deal in town from 6-8 p.m. 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.