Stars ride quick start, hold off Jacks comeback
March 10, 2012
Tyler Heinonen (pictured) registered a goal and an assist, but Lincoln stretched its winning streak to three with a 5-2 win Saturday at L.C. Walker Arena. The Stars never surrendered an early lead
by Matt Gajtka
MUSKEGON, Mich. – The Lincoln Stars sprinted out to a quick 2-0 lead Saturday night at L.C. Walker Arena and parlayed that into a 5-2 win over the Muskegon Lumberjacks.
The Lumberjacks tried to capture the magic of Feb. 25, when they erased a 3-0 first period deficit in a 6-5 home win over Indiana, but they couldn’t get any closer than one goal. Tyler Heinonen and Ryan Lomberg deposited second period goals to close the gap to 3-2 after two periods, but Luke Johnson restored the Stars’ two-score cushion early in the third.
Kevin Roy, the USHL’s leading scorer with 81 points, scored twice to give him a league-best 43 goals in his first season in Lincoln. The last USHLer to score that many was current Buffalo Sabre Thomas Vanek, who netted 46 for Sioux Falls in 2001-02.
But despite Roy’s pair, he was only part of the story for the Stars (30-15-4, 64 points), who clinched a playoff berth with their third straight win. Brent Tate had a goal and an assist, as did Johnson, while defenseman Paul LaDue added two assists to the cause.
Heinonen netted his 15th goal of the season for the Lumberjacks (15-26-7, 37 points) and also assisted on Lomberg’s team-leading 18th. The two oft-linemates have been Muskegon’s most prolific scorers in the second half of the season. Goaltender John Keeney, who is very familiar with Lincoln from his two-plus seasons with rival Omaha, made 34 saves.
It was the first and only meeting of the season between the two clubs from opposite conferences, but despite the unfamiliarity it was a contentious battle between the two most penalized teams in the USHL. Each side took seven penalties in the game and Lincoln defenseman Mike McKee was ejected for checking Mason Jobst from behind.
By virtue of the National Team’s doubleheader split Saturday in Ann Arbor, the Lumberjacks find themselves nine points behind the NTDP for the Eastern Conference’s sixth and final playoff spot. Muskegon will try to end a three-game winless streak Thursday morning when it hosts Green Bay.
Zach Aston-Reese took advantage of an incomplete Muskegon line change 8:33 into the first to put the Stars, three points behind Omaha for first in the West, on top. LaDue ripped a long lead pass to Aston-Reese, who snapped an accurate shot to the top-right corner from the left dot.
Tate, the native of Canton, Mich., tapped home his 11th from the right post after Johnson set him up with a backhand feed. It was another counterattack goal, this time immediately following a Lincoln power play expired.
Matt DeBlouw set the table for Heinonen’s goal at 8:31 of the second that cut the Stars’ advantage in half. He lifted the puck from deep in his own zone up the left wing, right onto the stick of Heinonen, who beat netminder Jackson Teichroeb between the legs with a wrister. Defenseman Ryan Bullock earned the second assist, giving him a team-leading 18.
Moments after Heinonen just missed connecting again to tie the game, Roy restored Lincoln’s two-goal lead when he backhanded the rebound of Jared Hanson’s point-blank shot inside the right post at 11:55.
McKee gave the Lumberjacks an opportunity to push back when he was issued 14 penalty minutes for his dangerous hit on Jobst, and Muskegon stepped through the open door. Heinonen dragged the puck off the end boards and Lomberg scooped it up and stashed it through Teichroeb’s legs with 1:58 to go in the period.
Lincoln eventually countered with a power play strike of its own, as Tate’s point shot caromed into the Muskegon net off the body of Johnson 2:26 into the third.
The Jacks were unable to cut the lead again, and Roy polished off the road win by lifting the puck into an empty net from the neutral zone with 37 seconds left.
Click here for complete box score.
The Green Bay Gamblers invade Muskegon Thursday for a 10:30 a.m. faceoff on Hockey for Health Day! The Meijer Pregame Show begins at 10 a.m. 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.