Gamblers push past Jacks 6-4
January 14, 2012
Matt DeBlouw (pictured) scored for the 2nd straight night and Rudy Sulmonte buried his first USHL goal, but league-leading Green Bay scored 4 in a row to take control in Muskegon
by Matt Gajtka
MUSKEGON, Mich. – The Muskegon Lumberjacks rallied for a 3-2 lead midway through Saturday night’s game at L.C. Walker Arena, but the first-place Green Bay Gamblers scored the next four goals en route to a 6-4 win.
Rudy Sulmonte and Matt DeBlouw scored back-to-back goals to snatch the lead after the Gamblers (26-5-1, 53 points) carried a 2-1 edge into the second period. However, goals nine seconds apart by Green Bay restored the visitors’ advantage, and Andy Welinski stunned Muskegon by hitting the twine with 0.8 seconds left in the second for a two-goal bulge.
Michigan native Alex Kile popped in two goals, including one with 9:15 remaining in the third to stretch the Green Bay lead to 6-3. Nick Seeler rifled his third of the season to draw the Lumberjacks (9-16-2, 20 points) within two, but that’s as close as they would get.
Green Bay won its fifth straight to move nine points up on second-place Indiana in the Eastern Conference, while Muskegon dropped its fourth in a row for the first time this season. The Jacks have gone 0-4-2 since beating Indiana in overtime Dec. 18 at L.C. Walker Arena.
Muskegon trails the National Team Development Program in the race for the sixth and final playoff spot in the East, and the Lumberjacks will play their next three games against the Red, White & Blue, including two at home next Friday and Saturday, both at 7:15 p.m.
Interim Head Coach Dave Noel-Bernier manned the Muskegon bench again, and for the second straight night the visiting team jumped on top first. Eight minutes into the game, Nolan LaPorte slid his team-leading 19th around Jacks goalie John Keeney, who stopped 37 shots on the night.
Joe Cox found a way to tie the score at 11:20 with his third of the year, pushing the puck under Green Bay netminder Michael Rotolo afterSulmonte had a crack at the rebound of Mason Jobst’s long shot. Jobst’s assist on the play was his first point in a Lumberjacks uniform for the Affiliate List forward.
Kile deftly redirected Nicholas Schilkey’s backdoor pass high into the cage with 2:38 left in the first, but the Lumberjacks slowly regained control of the game after the second frame began. Sulmonte blasted the rebound of Mark Yanis’ point shot past Rotolo at 2:37 for his first USHL goal and first multipoint game for Muskegon.
Then the Jacks’ passive neutral-zone approach began to pay dividends, as the offensively-minded Gamblers (USHL-best 4.45 goals per game) had difficulties advancing the puck cleanly.
A quick counterattack led to Muskegon’s first and only lead of the night. Tyler Heinonen earned his first assist of the season when his headman pass deflected to DeBlouw, who walked in behind the defense and lifted a wrister over Rotolo’s blocker at 9:12. DeBlouw now has goals in back-to-back games after going more than two months without one.
The Gamblers’ Sam Herr finished a 4-on-2 rush with his 14th a little more than six minutes later, just moments after two Jacks collided in the Green Bay zone. However, the score was 3-3 for only nine seconds, as Matthew Weis deposited the rebound of his own jam shot from the crease off a pass from Schilkey.
If the quick pair, the fastest dual strike of the season for a Muskegon opponent, didn’t tilt the ice enough, Welinski’s shocking tally before the second-period buzzer certainly did. Kile controlled an offensive-zone faceoff with 3.7 seconds remaining, and the Anaheim Ducks draft pick snapped a 60-footer through a crowd and past Keeney.
Kile scored at 10:45 of the third after Dakota Mermis had his initial shot stopped, giving Kile a three-point night to lead Green Bay. Seeler’s wrister from the left wing whistled past Rotolo three minutes later, with Ryan Lomberg and Dakota Klecha providing assistance on the play.
Muskegon pulled Keeney for an extra skater twice in the final minutes, but the Green Bay defense stiffened at the end to preserve the victory. The Gamblers are now 16-2-0 on the road, including two wins in the Port City.
Click here for complete box score.
Muskegon hosts the U.S. National Under-17 Team next Friday on Dollar Beer/Hot Dog Night presented by John Morrell! 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.