National Team downs Lumberjacks at home
March 23, 2012
Ryan Lomberg nailed his team-best 20th goal, but the Nationals scored the first five goals Friday night on the way to a 6-1 decision. Muskegon hosts Green Bay Saturday night at L.C. Walker Arena!
by Matt Gajtka
MUSKEGON, Mich. – The National Team Development Program is one entity in the USHL standings, but it consists of two separate teams. As the Muskegon Lumberjacks can attest, they are very different squads, indeed.
Andrew Copp picked up three points and Cameron Darcy scored twice for the National Under-18 Team in a 6-1 defeat of the Lumberjacks Friday night at L.C. Walker Arena. Muskegon trounced the Under-17s 6-2 last Saturday but couldn’t make it an NTDP sweep over the span of six days.
The Jacks outshot the Nationals 7-2 in the opening minutes of the first period, but Muskegon entered the intermission down 1-0. The visitors then poured on four more unanswered goals in the second before Ryan Lomberg buried his 20th goal of the season late in the period.
Collin Olson stopped 18 of 19 Lumberjacks shots to help the National Team (25-24-4, 54 points) build their lead to 14 points over Chicago for the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot. The Under-18s have won three in a row while the U-17s are winless in six.
The Lumberjacks (16-29-7, 39 points) lost for the fifth time in their last six games but will get a chance for redemption Saturday night as the Green Bay Gamblers make their final visit of the year at 7:15 p.m. Muskegon has just two home games left in the regular season.
The Jacks tied a season-high with six goals in their previous game, and they started Friday night in the same offensive mode, peppering Olson with multiple scoring opportunities. The home side couldn’t break through, though, and Ryan Hartman put the Nationals up when he finished the rebound of defenseman Patrick Sieloff’s shot off the rush at 14:34 of the first.
Riley Barber set up Copp at the doorstep in transition 2:55 into the second to make it 2-0. Copp shoved the puck past Muskegon goalie Hayden Stewart, who made 28 saves in his second straight start.
Stewart didn’t have much of a chance nearly eight minutes later, as Stefan Matteau ripped a wrist shot from between the circles after rearguard Jacob Trouba dropped the puck to him at the blueline. Seconds earlier, Muskegon’s Adam Chlapik hit the right post with a hard drive, just missing cutting the lead to 2-1; instead it was a three-goal advantage for the National Team.
The lead grew to four 78 seconds later when Darcy got his first of the night off an assist from Copp. Darcy took the relay and burst to the left circle before lifting a backhand high into the Lumberjacks’ net at 12:06.
Brady Skjei added an unassisted power play goal about two minutes after Darcy’s even-strength tally, but the Lumberjacks found a way to break the shutout with 1:01 to go in the second period.
Tyler Heinonen yanked the puck past Trouba at the left boards and centered for the open Lomberg, who drilled a high one-timer over Olsen’s glove. The first-year USHL player from Richmond Hill, Ontario, leads the Jacks in goals (20) and points (34); he is committed to the University of Maine.
Copp hooked up with Darcy one more time with 5:35 left in the third, this time for a tap-in goal from the top of the blue paint. The National Team held the Jacks to two shots in the final period, but Muskegon extracted a physical price with multiple solid checks to keep the visitors off balance, hoping to set up a solid effort Saturday.
Click here for complete box score.
It’ll be Ollie’s Birthday Saturday night as Muskegon hosts Green Bay! Children 12 and under who bring a gift for the Jacks mascot will receive a free ticket; all gifts will be donated to the Rescue Mission. The Meijer Pregame Show begins at 6:45 on 92.5 The Outlaw with Voice of the Jacks Matt Gajtka and Muskegon hockey legend Ron Stephenson 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. Season tickets for 2012-13 are already on sale for only $200 apiece (32 home games), but the offer only lasts until June 16!
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.