Jacks come up just short to National Team, 5-4
January 21, 2012
Future Michigan State Spartans Joe Cox and Matt DeBlouw each contributed two points but Muskegon couldn't tie the game despite two late goals in the third
MUSKEGON, Mich. – The start was solid and the finish was frantic, but that combination wasn’t enough for the Muskegon Lumberjacks Saturday night, as the U.S. National Under-17 Team made enough plays to hold off the home side at L.C. Walker Arena.
Mason Jobst scored his first Lumberjacks goal 2:11 into the game and Tyler Heinonen and Travis Walsh beat National Team goalie Curtis Frye in the final five minutes, but Muskegon could not draw even to force overtime. Joe Cox had a goal and an assist for his first multipoint USHL game, and Matt DeBlouw picked up two helpers.
The National Team (17-12-3, 37 points) bounced back from Jobst’s early strike to carry a 3-2 lead to the first intermission; the Under-17 team added two goals in the third to keep the Jacks at arm’s length. Andrew Copp had a goal and two assists to lead the way for the visitors.
Although he was once again one of the best players on the ice, Ryan Lomberg’s five-game point streak came to an end, keeping him tied with Jordan Masters for the longest by a Lumberjack this season. Netminder John Keeney, making his fourth consecutive start, stopped 38 shots in the loss.
Muskegon (10-17-2, 22 points) missed an opportunity to climb closer to the National Team in the Eastern Conference standings, but the Jacks and Under-17s will battle for the third consecutive game next Friday at the Ice Cube in Ann Arbor, Mich.
For the second straight night, the Lumberjacks scored the first goal of the game for new Head Coach Jim McKenzie, who earned his first USHL win Friday night in Muskegon’s 4-3 home victory over the National Team. Rudy Sulmonte hit Jobst with a lead pass, and the former Affiliate List player stuffed the puck around Frye for a 1-0 lead. Nick Seeler earned an assist, giving the rookie defenseman points in eight of his last 13 games.
But defenseman Gage Ausmus blasted a left circle slapshot off a stick and past Keeney at 8:13, followed just 23 seconds later by Connor Chatham’s finish of Tyler Kelleher’s centering pass from the side of the net.
The National Team lead grew to 3-1 three minutes later when Copp lifted the carom of Scott Savage’s point shot high into the twine from the right dot.
Cox got the lively Jacks Fight Cancer Night crowd of 2,711 back on its feet with 4:13 left in the first, as he stashed the puck around Frye’s right leg. DeBlouwearned the only assist with a steal behind the U-17s’ net and a quick toss to the crease.
A stagnant second period featuring multiple post-whistle scrums kept the players’ blood boiling but the score remained the same until 3:48 of the third, when Evan Allen lit the lamp for the second time in two nights off an assist from Copp. Muskegon’s Dakota Klecha hit the crossbar on a breakaway just seconds prior.
The Lumberjacks continued to plug away, though, and they were rewarded when DeBlouw stole the puck and set up the late-breaking Heinonen at the left circle to cut the lead to 4-3. Nonetheless, the National Team once again showed quick-strike ability, as Keaton Thompson finished a give-and-go play with Michael McCarron with an accurate one-timer only 15 seconds later.
Walsh ripped a blast over Frye’s blocker with 2:16 remaining, adding more drama to an already thrilling weekend at L.C. Walker Arena. The Michigan State recruit contributed two assists Friday night and now has his second two-game point streak of the season.
Despite the rampant offense, the teams combined to go 0-for-10 on the power play, with the National Team misfiring on six attempts. Although the Jacks didn’t connect on the man advantage, they managed four goals for the third straight game for the first time since a three-game winning streak Oct. 29-Nov. 4.
Click here for complete box score.
The USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game comes to Muskegon Tuesday night, with 40 of the league’s top talents battling it out on one ice surface. 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.