Jacks get back on track in Sioux City
March 3, 2012
Ryan Bullock (pictued) scored twice and goalie John Keeney stopped all but one of 32 shots as Muskegon topped the Musketeers. The Jacks are now within six points of the East's final playoff spot!
by Matt Gajtka
SIOUX CITY, Iowa – The Eastern Conference playoff race has suddenly gotten a lot more interesting, and the Muskegon Lumberjacks are playing a big role.
The Lumberjacks improved to 3-1-1 in their last five games and jumped within six points of the East’s final playoff spot with a gritty 3-1 win over the Sioux City Musketeers Saturday night at the Tyson Events Center.
Ryan Bullock authored his first USHL two-goal game and goalie John Keeney denied 31 of 32 Musketeers shots en route to his first road win since Nov. 11, a span of 10 starts. The Lumberjacks (15-24-6, 36 points) as a team ended a five-game winless streak in away games.
Tyler Heinonen scored the other Muskegon goal, which put the Jacks up 2-1 entering the third period. The Lumberjacks improved to 12-1-3 in such situations when they fended off a late Sioux City power play and Bullock tossed a backhand shot from his own zone into an empty net with 27 seconds left.
Matt Skoff got in front of 23 Muskegon shots, but it wasn’t enough to carry the Musketeers (20-27-1, 41 points), who have lost four in a row and scored just one goal in two home games this weekend. David Goodwin had Sioux City’s only goal, his 20th of the season.
The Lumberjacks finish a run of four straight road games Wednesday in Ann Arbor, when they take on the National Under-18 Team. With a regulation win the Lumberjacks would climb within four points of the NTDP with 14 games to play.
The Musketeers entered Saturday’s game one point ahead of Tri-City for sixth place in the West and they outshot Muskegon 12-9 in the first period, but Keeney held strong to keep the game scoreless.
After holding the Musketeers off the board on their first two power plays of the game, the Jacks connected on their opening opportunity early in the second period. Rasmus Bengtsson put the puck on a tee for Bullock above the left circle, and the rookie defenseman rifled his eighth of the year under Skoff at 3:40.
Muskegon got in penalty trouble soon after grabbing the 1-0 lead, though. Sioux City took advantage of an extended 5-on-3 when Skoff, of all people, triggered a quick counterattack. Following Carter Foguth’s nifty clear, the Musketeers’ third-year netminder fired a long pass up the left wing for Brad Robbins, who touched it ahead to Goodwin.
With the Jacks trying to complete a change, Goodwin had free reign to the circle and snapped a shot through Keeney’s legs to tie the game. Skoff’s assist on the play was his second of the season.
The Lumberjacks snatched the lead back in a more traditional way, with leading scorer Ryan Lomberg setting the table. With Muskegon on another power play late in the second, Lomberg intercepted a Sioux City clearing attempt and fed Heinonen at the left circle.
Heinonen’s initial shot was stopped but he followed the rebound to the crease and buried it high into the net with 3:34 remaining before intermission. Heinonen’s 13th goal of the season put him second on the team behind only Lomberg, who earned his 30th point with the helper.
The Jacks, who finished 2-for-4 on the power play, were forced to kill off one more Sioux City chance in the waning moments. They did just that with help from Keeney, who saved his best play for the third period.
When Bullock’s long-distance shot glided into the center of the open goal in the final minute, the Lumberjacks had earned their fifth road win of the season, and just their second since mid-November.
Click here for complete box score.
The Lumberjacks travel east for a key contest Wednesday night at 7 p.m. with the National Under-18 Team in Ann Arbor. The Meijer Pregame Show begins at 6:30 on 92.5 The Outlaw with Voice of the Jacks Matt Gajtka on the call.
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.