KEARNEY, NE- It’s a long way west to Kearney, Nebraska.
The Jacks’ final long road trip of the regular season will cover more than 1,600 miles in total as the Muskegon Lumberjacks take on the Tri-City Storm.
Located in central Nebraska (Kearney to be exact) the Storm are the defending Clark Cup Champs, but have only two returning players left from last season’s squad. The Storm have been eliminated from playoff contention, and sent a host of veterans to other teams at the deadline in exchange for prospects and draft picks.
Things have been clicking for the new-look Storm: since snapping a seven-game losing streak, the Storm are 3-2-1 and on a three-game point streak, their longest since November.
Tri-City relies on a potent power play and star forward Linus Weissbach to produce scoring, and Eric Dop has emerged as the Storm’s go-to netminder since the trade of Dayton Rasmussen in February.
The meetings will be the only two of the season between the Jacks and Storm, but Jacks fans will notice a familiar face in Logan Drevitch, who now suits up for TC. Drevitch was traded for Jack McNeely early in the year, and has scored 9 goals and 17 points this season.
New faces may also appear on the ice for Muskegon, as affiliate players Mark Cheremeta and Collin Murphy have made the trip to Tri-City. Cheremeta, a forward, just finished his season with the Islanders Hockey Club. In 41 games, Cheremeta scored 13 goals and added 22 assists, capping off his season with a USPHL title.
Murphy, a Northeastern commit, also played in the USPHL for the South Shore Kings. Murphy scored three goals and 13 points in 44 games.
Head coach John LaFontaine hopes that the new faces can help his team score: Muskegon has only tallied four goals in their last three games, and the Jacks have been shut out twice in their last five games after they were shut out only twice in their first 47.
The defense has kept Muskegon in the win column, limiting opposing offenses to just seven goals in the last four games. Keith Petruzzelli has been solid in net, winning five of his last seven starts. In all five wins, Petruzzelli allowed exactly one goal.
The Clark Cup Playoffs are now less than one month away, and Muskegon’s magic number has been whittled down to nine with eight games remaining. Looking back, they have an eight-point lead over fifth-place Green Bay. Looking forward, they trail 2nd-place Dubuque by three points. For the Jacks, moving up into the top two and earning home ice advantage for the opening round of the playoffs would be a boost: they’ve won 17 games at LC Walker Arena, the third-most home wins in the USHL.
Both Friday and Saturday night’s games are scheduled for 8:05pm EST, and will be aired live on 92.5 Nash Icon.