Chicago escapes Muskegon with 3-1 win
March 9, 2012
Matt DeBlouw (pictured) got the Lumberjacks off to a great start Friday night, but the Steel scored the game winning goal with about a minute left at L.C. Walker Arena to grab the victory
by Matt Gajtka
MUSKEGON, Mich. – Andrew Miller netted a pair of goals 28 seconds apart late in the third period to push the Chicago Steel past the Muskegon Lumberjacks 3-1 Saturday night at L.C. Walker Arena.
In the final meeting of an eight-game season series, the two teams played like there were no surprises, with offensive chances appearing sparingly. Matt DeBlouw scored early in the first period to put Muskegon in front, then Ali Thomas countered in the opening moments of the second.
The game was tied 1-1 until the final 1:07 of regulation, when Miller struck twice to decide the contest and pull Chicago (18-29-1, 37 points) into a seventh-place tie with the Lumberjacks (15-25-7, 37 points) in the Eastern Conference.
Phillip Marinaccio caught up to a loose puck in the left corner of the Muskegon zone and spun a blind backhand feed to Miller at the right post, who directed it into the goal. The stunning play silenced the Lumberjacks partisans and forced the home side into desperation mode.
With goalie John Keeney off the ice for an extra attacker, Marinaccio connected with Miller again, this time at center ice. Miller hoisted the puck into the empty net from 90 feet away for his team-leading 19th of the season with 39 seconds left.
Keeney made 18 saves in his fifth straight start and Chicago counterpart Mathias Dahlstrom improved to 6-0-0 against Muskegon with 14 stops, but the goalies were merely secondary characters in a game that featured only 36 combined shots.
With the National Team Development Program losing at home to Lincoln Friday night, the Lumberjacks and Steel are each seven points behind the NTDP for the sixth and final playoff berth in the East. Muskegon takes on Lincoln tomorrow night while Chicago travels to Ann Arbor to face the Nationals.
The Lumberjacks matched a season low with 15 shots on net, but they generated the first goal for the fourth straight game, their longest such stretch of the season. Dean Pawlaczyk took a bump to push the puck behind the Chicago goal to Jon Padulo, who centered for DeBlouw between the circles.
DeBlouw’s one-timer clanged off the stick of goaltender Dahlstrom and hopped into the net at 5:12 of the first, the ninth of the season for the future Michigan State Spartan.
Muskegon outshot Chicago 9-5 in the opening period, but the Steel built a 9-4 edge in the second and also created the only goal of the frame 1:48 in. Jimmy DeVito, who finished the season series with 10 points against the Jacks, found Thomas open at the inner edge of the left circle for a blast that beat Keeney glove side.
The two sides then settled in for approximately 30 minutes of scoreless hockey. Each team played solidly and prevented any outstanding opportunities, and the game appeared headed for overtime. Ryan Lomberg drilled the crossbar with a long shot about midway through the third on Muskegon’s best chance to grab the lead. Tyler Heinonen also barely missed on a sweet setup from DeBlouw, who had several superb shifts late.
But the Steel escaped Muskegon with a victory and improved to 6-2-0 against their East rivals, including a 2-2-0 record at L.C. Walker Arena.
Click here for complete box score.
The Lumberjacks host the Lincoln Stars Saturday night at 7:15 p.m. on Beach Night, featuring a beach body contest and great prizes! The Meijer Pregame Show begins at 6:45 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.