Cedar Rapids stifles Lumberjacks
February 3, 2012
Muskegon outshoots its opponent for the third straight game, but RoughRiders goalie Jake Hildebrand earned a shutout at L.C. Walker Arena
by Matt Gajtka
MUSKEGON, Mich. – The Muskegon Lumberjacks had a frustrating Friday at L.C. Walker Arena, as they were unable to squeeze a puck past Cedar Rapids RoughRiders goalie Jake Hildebrand, who made 27 saves in a 3-0 shutout.
Hildebrand earned his third win against Muskegon in three tries this season, as the Jacks had their winless streak stretch to five despite outshooting their opponent for the third straight game – the first time they’ve done that this season.
Cedar Rapids scored twice in the second and added an empty-net goal late in the third to take a 3-0-0 lead in the season series. Last year’s second-round Clark Cup Playoff opponents will meet for the final time April 13 in the season’s final weekend.
The animosity from last year’s postseason matchup was rekindled in the final seconds. Jacks defenseman Travis Walsh took exception to a last-second slap shot from the RoughRiders’ John Gilmour and multiple fights erupted following the final buzzer. Eventually the officials cleared the ice with help from coaches, but not before 130 penalty minutes were issued at the 20:00 mark of the third period.
John Keeney stopped 18 of 20 shots in net for the Lumberjacks (10-19-4, 24 points), as the third-year USHL goaltender made his 14th start in Muskegon’s last 16 games. Chicago visits L.C. Walker Arena Saturday at 7:15 p.m. as the Jacks will try to climb within a point of the seventh-place Steel with a victory.
Seven players recorded a point for the RoughRiders (16-13-8, 40 points), who improved to 5-2-1 in their last eight. Cedar Rapids is now tied with the National Team Development Program for fifth place in the Eastern Conference. The ‘Riders will host Youngstown Saturday night.
The Lumberjacks won the first pivotal moment of the game when they killed 94 seconds of a two-man Cedar Rapids advantage midway through the first period. Muskegon then pressed the issue offensively later in the opening stanza, but the two sides went to the first intermission scoreless.
Despite the earlier missed opportunity, the RoughRiders managed to break through for the game’s first goal on the power play. Ryan McGrath gathered the rebound of his own blocked shot and wristed the puck past Keeney from 25 feet away to put Cedar Rapids up 1-0 at 2:52 of the second.
Another follow-up chance gave the ‘Riders a 2-0 lead midway through the period. Austin Ortega collected a pass in the slot and whipped a shot that Keeney made an outstanding save on. The puck rolled away to the left, however, and Dennis Kravchenko shoveled it in from the left post for his sixth goal in 12 USHL games.
The Lumberjacks had the first two power plays of the third period, but couldn’t generate a goal. Muskegon finished 0-for-6 on the man advantage.
The Jacks were on their final power play of the night when RoughRiders defenseman Greg Amlong lifted a shot from his own zone all the way down and into the empty net with Keeney off the ice for an extra attacker. Amlong is Cedar Rapids’ second-leading scorer with 23 points, 14 behind the injured Nick Saracino.
The shutout put a stop to Matt DeBlouw’s four-game point streak, matching his longest of the season. The Michigan State recruit has still scored in six of the Jacks’ last eight games.
Click here for complete box score.
The Jacks host Chicago Saturday night at 7:15 p.m. Attend the Lumberjacks game and use your ticket to get $1 off admission to the Snowfest Entertainment Tent on Western Ave. Call the L.C. Walker Arena box office at 231.724.JACK(5225) for 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.