Muskegon stung by late goals in Ann Arbor
February 20, 2012
Alex Smith (pictured) set up Joe Cox' go-ahead goal in the third, but the National Team rallied with three unanswered to steal a 6-4 win Monday afternoon. The Jacks return home for a pair this weekend
by Matt Gajtka
ANN ARBOR, Mich. – The Muskegon Lumberjacks bounced back from an early two-goal deficit to grab a 4-3 lead in the third period, but the National Under-17 Team scored three unanswered to prevail 6-4 Monday afternoon at the Ice Cube.
Joe Cox, from nearby Chelsea, Mich., deflected Alex Smith’s shot past NTDP goalie Hunter Miska to put the Jacks (12-23-5, 29 points) in command with 11:45 to play. It was the Michigan State recruit’s sixth goal of the year and his second point of the day.
However, J.T. Compher tied the score at 4 with 6:31 left, then Anthony Louis scored his second goal of the afternoon during a 5-on-3 power play to put the Nationals (19-15-4, 42 points) up for good.
The NTDP jumped on top 2-0 in the opening six minutes, only to watch the Lumberjacks rally to tie the game by the first intermission on goals from Ryan Bullock and Tyler Heinonen. Rasmus Bengtsson buried a slap shot in the second to give Muskegon its first lead, but Louis answered before the end of the frame to equalize again.
The Jacks have dropped three in a row, all on the road, so they will be eager to return to L.C. Walker Arena this weekend for a pair against Indiana Friday and Saturday. Both games will start at 7:15 p.m.
Offense dominated the Presidents Day matinee right from the start, with Kevin Labanc scoring on a solo rush at 3:13 and John Hayden following less than three minutes later when he benefited from a fortunate bounce.
Bullock buried the rebound of Travis Walsh’s wrister to cut the NTDP lead two minutes after Hayden’s tally. Cox earned the second assist on Bullock’s seventh of the season; the first-year defenseman now has points in six of his last eight games.
Heinonen gathered the rebound of his own blocked shot and beat Miska from the right circle to make it 2-2 with 3:49, just seconds after a Lumberjacks power play expired. Heinonen (Michigan Tech) has 11 on the year, two behind Ryan Lomberg for the team lead, and he’s netted eight in his last 12 games.
After a tenacious forechecking effort from Matt DeBlouw and Max Shuart, Bengtsson pounced on a loose puck at the left circle 6 ½ minutes into the second to push the Jacks on top. The Florida Panthers draft pick hammered the shot through Miska from 30 feet away.
Tyler Motte’s centering pass found Louis in the slot for the tying goal with five minutes to go in the second. Louis mishandled the puck initially, which threw goalie John Keeney’s timing slightly off. Keeney made 29 saves and was frequently asked to come up big on scrambles around the net.
The Jacks pressed hard to take the lead back and they got it on Cox’ deflection from between the circles, which fooled Miska and gave Muskegon four goals against the National Team for the third time this season. Smith and Dean Pawlaczyk picked up helpers.
Heinonen and Lomberg had great opportunities to extend the Muskegon lead to two, but Miska closed it down to keep the home team within range.
Motte set up Compher for a point-blank one-timer five minutes later, and with two Lumberjacks in the box soon after, Louis blasted in the rebound of Hudson Fasching’s attempt, which Keeney made a superb save on.
Fasching scored his second goal in two days when he lifted a perfectly-placed forehand shot off the crossbar and in from the left circle with 1:08 remaining. It was also a power play goal, as the Nationals connected during their final two opportunities after missing on their first three.
The Lumberjacks finished 0-for-3 on the man advantage. Muskegon has now played 40 games, the second fewest in the USHL. The NTDP has taken the ice for only 38 league matchups.
Click here for complete box score.
The Lumberjacks return home Friday and Saturday for a two-game set with Indiana. Friday is Dollar Beer/Hot Dog Night presented by John Morrell. The Meijer Pregame Show begins at 6:45 on 92.5 The Outlaw with Voice of the Jacks Matt Gajtka on the call and Muskegon hockey legend Ron Stephenson providing color analysis.
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.