Indiana holds Lumberjacks at bay
January 28, 2012
Travis Walsh continued his recent scoring binge, getting two assists, but the Ice's top four scorers each had two points as Muskegon fell 5-3 Saturday
by Matt Gajtka
MUSKEGON, Mich. – On a night tailored toward the past, the USHL’s hottest team of the present continued its recent success, as the Indiana Ice held the Muskegon Lumberjacks at bay in a 5-3 win Saturday night at L.C. Walker Arena.
With both teams wearing jerseys from the 1980s – the Lumberjacks mimicked the look they had in the old International Hockey League – the Ice improved to 11-1-3 in their last 15. Indiana scored the first two goals of the night, but Muskegon rallied on three separate occasions to cut the lead to one goal.
Muskegon defenseman Travis Walsh continued his scoring binge with two more assists, giving the Michigan State recruit five points in his last four games. Matt DeBlouw, Tyler Heinonen and Nick Seeler each netted a goal for the Jacks, who outshot the Ice 33-29.
However, the Ice’s Daniil Tarasov, Sean Kuraly, Robbie Baillargeon and Jake Fallon – the team’s top four scorers – each registered two points as the Jacks (10-18-3, 23 points) lost in regulation to second-place Indiana for the first time in four meetings this season.
Muskegon will complete a three-game weekend Sunday at 5:15 p.m. when the Dubuque Fighting Saints pay a visit for the second time and final time this season. The Jacks are now 1-2-1 under new Head Coach Jim McKenzie, who took over two weeks ago.
Hayden Stewart made his USHL debut in net for the Lumberjacks, stopping 24 shots after playing earlier this season for the Team Illinois club. Indiana goaltender Dalton Izyk denied a Ryan Lomberg penalty shot as part of his 30-save effort.
The stop on Lomberg was a significant moment, but a strong start was key to Indiana’s success Saturday night. The game was originally scheduled to be a home contest for the Ice (22-8-5, 49 points), and they played like it in the first period while dressed as the IHL’s Indianapolis Checkers.
Fallon struck for his 10th goal at 8:46, driving with speed down the right wing and stuffing an uncontested shot around Stewart. Kuraly made it 2-0 with 2:28 left when Baillargeon centered from the right circle after Stewart denied Tarasov with a strong leg save.
DeBlouw answered with an outstanding individual effort 51 seconds later, cutting the Indiana lead in half. The future MSU Spartan and NHL Draft prospect sped to the net and tossed a forehand drive under the crossbar after a quick deke.
But Ice defenseman Joe Fiala connected off an assist from Kuraly to restore the visitors’ two-goal lead with 41 seconds left in the first. Kuraly tried to shoot quickly, but the puck slipped out to Fiala, who ripped his first of the season inside the right post.
The Lumberjacks revved up the power play early in the second, peppering Izyk with shots from all angles. The rebound of Jordan Masters’ left circle drive bounced to Heinonen, who lifted his fifth of the year into the twine at 1:36.
Indiana was awarded four straight power plays later in the second, including a 33-second two-man advantage midway through, but the Jacks stymied the league’s top power play to keep it 3-2. With Muskegon short a man a bit later, Lomberg was hooked on a clear chance, giving the future Maine Black Bear his second penalty shot of the season.
The Ontario native scored on a penalty shot Oct. 8 at Chicago, but this time Izyk waited him out and saved the shot with his blocker hand. Less than a minute later, Tarasov connected for his team-leading 24th off assists from Fallon and Baillargeon, throwing a low shot under Stewart’s left leg.
Muskegon cut into the Indiana lead late in the second, when Seeler blasted a wicked one-timer from the blue line with 12 seconds remaining in the frame. The power play goal gave the Jacks a pair against the USHL’s second-best penalty kill.
An even-strength goal would provide the final margin. Austrian Emil Romig rifled a right circle wrister off the left arm of Stewart and into the goal 7 ½ minutes into the third. Muskegon got a pair of late power play opportunities but couldn’t draw within one for the fourth time.
Click here for complete box score.
The Jacks host defending Clark Cup champion Dubuque Sunday at 5:15 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.