Foguth's comeback gives Jacks a boost
March 1, 2012
Muskegon captain Carter Foguth's second season has mirrored his team's. But a midseason setback could be the impetus behind a late surge for both the Michigan native and the club
by Matt Gajtka
MUSKEGON, Mich. – In many ways, the Muskegon Lumberjacks’ second season in the USHL mirrors the sophomore campaign of their captain, Michigan-born defenseman Carter Foguth.
Both the player and the team began the season seeking to build upon a promising first year in the country’s top junior league, only to suffer a setback and be forced to redouble efforts to get back on track.
After a season with the NAHL’s Marquette Rangers, the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Foguth made last year’s Lumberjacks as an undrafted tryout camp invitee. He endeared himself to the Muskegon coaching staff and fans with 55 rock-solid games, during which he posted a team-best plus-9 rating.
Voted by his teammates to don the ‘C’ this season, Foguth was delivering his usual defensive-minded style of play through his first eight games, thriving with additional ice time. Once again, his plus-3 led the Lumberjacks, but his influence went beyond stats as Muskegon won six of seven in November to jump to a 7-6-0 record.
“Carter brings a presence and a calmness to the team that’s hard to describe,” said Lumberjacks Head Coach Jim McKenzie. “It’s not just one thing that he does. He’s a physical presence and a really smart player on the ice, and he’s an important guy in the locker room as well.”
“He sets the example on and off the ice and makes things easier for a coach.”
Foguth sustained an upper-body injury in a loss to league-leading Green Bay Nov. 18, putting him on the injured reserve and leaving the Jacks without their captain for the better part of three months. Muskegon won only three of 19 games with Foguth on the inactive list and fell to last place in the USHL’s Eastern Conference.
“It’s definitely been a tough year with a lot of ups and downs,” said Foguth, who turned 20 last month. “I had to figure out what I needed to do to get back on the ice. It’s been an eye-opening experience for me to watch the game from the outside a bit.
“It was difficult because at the beginning of the year you don’t expect to get hurt. It made me realize you can’t take opportunities for granted.”
Upon Foguth’s return to the lineup Feb. 4 vs. Chicago – he missed a total of 19 matches in the interim – the Lumberjacks have shown significant signs of improvement, earning points in six of 10 games since. As of March 1, the Jacks were eight points behind the National Team Development Program for the sixth and final playoff spot in the East.
“I like our fight lately, it seems like we have something to believe in,” Foguth said. “We all want to win and this has been a tough season, but we realize that and we’re still going to push no matter what.”
In the nine games since his reboot, Foguth has gradually reclaimed his preferred role as his conditioning and feel for the sport returns.
“It’s been tough taking two, three months off and hopping back into the pace of this league,” he said. “I feel like every practice and game is another step toward getting up to speed.
“I feel pretty close to 100 percent now. They were calling me Lance Armstrong in the workout room because I was on the bike so much.”
All the hard work to get back to game action made an impression on his teammates, as does his obvious enthusiasm for playing the sport he loves.
“I’ve never seen anybody more excited to get back on the ice than him,” McKenzie said. “He had to wait a while to get cleared by the doctor, but when he did he had the biggest smile on his face all day.”
In addition to his passion, toughness is another key characteristic in Foguth’s repertoire. Following a 162-penalty minute season in his first USHL go-around, he has made his mark on the rest of the league, and especially opposing fans.
“I love it, it gives me a little more energy and spark to go out there and beat the home team,” said Foguth, whose Jacks will play 10 of their last 17 in unfriendly environments. “I think it helps the guys in the locker room too. They all know the crowd hates me so they want to help me go out there and get the win.”
Although he’s gotten back to where he wants to be, clearly this wasn’t the season Foguth had planned, but he maintains that his tribulations this winter will benefit him in the future, no matter where life takes him from here.
“You need to be prepared when something’s thrown at you and figure out a way,” said Foguth, who will be eligible to return to the USHL for another season. “I’ve really leaned on my teammates and other people in the organization to help me get through.”
The native of Fenton, Mich., has enjoyed playing junior hockey within a relatively short drive from his hometown, and he would love nothing more than to provide the bedrock for the Lumberjacks to complete an improbable run to the Clark Cup playoffs. Muskegon has seven weeks of hockey, including a compact stretch of six home games in mid-March, to pull off the feat.
“We’re all coming together and playing for each other and the fans and fighting for something,” Foguth said. “Every weekend is huge at this point.”
Matt Gajtka is the Communications Director and Broadcaster for the Muskegon Lumberjacks. You can reach him at email@example.com.