MUSKEGON, MI- The Muskegon Lumberjacks have a tough weekend ahead of them, but it’s one that comes with great opportunity. Three games in three days against the Youngstown Phantoms and Chicago Steel offer the Jacks a shot at vaulting up the Eastern Conference standings.
Currently in fourth place, Muskegon owns a playoff spot. However, they are just three points clear of surging Green Bay and two points behind their Friday opponent, the Youngstown Phantoms. With 18 games remaining in the regular season, each point is critical and six huge ones are up for grabs this weekend.
On Friday, the Phantoms visit LC Walker Arena for the final time of the season. So far, the series is deadlocked at three wins apiece.
The Lumberjacks announced this week that Friday's game will be dollar beer night, with 12-ounce drafts of Bud and Bud Light featured for just a buck until the end of the first period.
Both Youngstown and Muskegon have made adjustments to their rosters since the last meeting. Most notably, Ty Farmer was traded from Youngstown to Muskegon and will face his former team for the first time.
Farmer won’t be the only Jack playing against a former teammate on Friday, though. Austin Alger will be reunited with new Phantom Pierce Crawford; just two weeks ago, the two were teammates in Omaha.
Youngstown, riding a four-game winning streak, has won games by limiting their opponents’ shot attempt to a league-best 24.4 per game. Combine their stingy defense with the netminding of Ivan Kulbakov, and you have the league’s 2nd-best scoring defense (2.28 GA per game).
Kulbakov has a sparkling 1.97 GAA, and has only given up four goals or more four times this season. Of those four games, three have been against Muskegon. If anyone can solve Kulbakov, it’s the Jacks.
After Friday’s tilt with the Phantoms, the Jacks will host Chicago on Saturday for the first half of a home-and-home that will finish at Fox Valley Ice Arena on Sunday.
Chicago has reclaimed first place with two wins last weekend, and still boasts the league’s top offense (3.32 goals per game). Muskegon can also score at a high level, and their mark of 3.17 goals per game ranks fourth league-wide.
Sunday’s matchup will be the first time the Jacks visit Fox Valley Ice Arena this season, where the Steel boast a 15-6-2 record. No team has won more home games than the Chicago Steel. The game begins at 4:05pm EST, and will be broadcast live on 92.5 Nash Icon.
The Jacks have put together a strong stretch, winning seven of their last ten games, but because Chicago, Youngstown, Dubuque and Green Bay have been equally as strong, Muskegon hasn’t been able to gain ground. This weekend gives Muskegon the opportunity to take points from two teams ahead of them in the East. With a clean sweep of six points, the Jacks would have an outside shot at hurdling Youngstown, Dubuque, and Chicago and into first place.
Friday and Saturday’s home games are scheduled to begin at 7:15pm, while Sunday’s game will be a 4:05pm puck drop.