MUSKEGON, MI- The Muskegon Lumberjacks faced the Youngstown Phantoms for the first time this season last Saturday, and things went exactly as you might have guessed. There were plenty of hard hits, late drama, a shootout full of silky moves, and a Muskegon victory.
This weekend, the rivalry will continue when Muskegon and Youngstown face off in a home-and-home series on Friday and Saturday nights. Friday’s matchup will be played in Youngstown at the Covelli Centre, while Saturday’s game will be in Muskegon at LC Walker Arena.
Muskegon has jumped in front in this season series, winning the first matchup 3-2 in a shootout last Saturday. According to head coach John LaFontaine, this Youngstown team isn’t too different than last year’s squad that played a tight, physical season series with Muskegon. LaFontaine expects that things will be rough and tumble early and often this year in the teams’ eight matchups.
Things didn’t boil over in matchup one, but the game was an exciting one with late heroics. Last season, four of the nine games were of the one-goal variety, two of the games needed overtime, and three times a goal in the last 90 seconds of regulation either won it, or sent it into overtime. These trends continued last weekend (the Phantoms tied the game at two with 2:13 to play) and Jacks fans can expect more of the same this weekend.
With three new players joining Muskegon this week, the team will have a new look, and a new star in defenseman Clayton Phillips. Phillips, a 3rd-round draft pick in the 2017 NHL draft, figures to make an immediate impact in Muskegon. An elite two-way defender, Phillips will step right into a prominent role in all three phases. He could quarterback the power play, which has scored only once this season and ranks 16th in the USHL at 5.6 percent.
Youngstown has allowed 20 goals on the season, the third most in the league. While Muskegon’s offense has started slowly, the combination of Phillips and the Phantoms’ penetrable defense may lead to a high-scoring weekend for the Lumberjacks.
Goaltender Adam Brizgala has started the year strong, appearing in all five games for the Lumberjacks and posting a 2-2-0 record, 2.35 GAA, and .930 SV%. Despite the addition of goaltender Keegan Karki this week, Brizgala may start both games in net.
The Phantoms and Lumberjacks have faced one another 55 times since Muskegon joined the USHL in 2010, and the Jacks have a 30-18-7 record against the Phantoms. The two teams have played one another three consecutive times on one other occasion, and the Jacks went 1-1-1 in those three games played back in February of 2013.
For Saturday’s home game, Jacks fans can grab a four pack of tickets and either four hats or four concession vouchers for just $50. This great offer is only available over the phone, so call 231-724-5225 today!