MUSKEGON, MI- In the midst of a season-long six-game homestand, the Muskegon Lumberjacks are building momentum. They have earned points in three of their last four, and are coming off a 3-0 shutout victory over the Central Illinois Flying Aces. This weekend, their six-game homestand concludes with two matchups against the Youngstown Phantoms on Saturday and Sunday.
The Lumberjacks are 2-1-0 against Youngstown so far this season, and in the midst of a stretch where they play their rivals five times in eight games. This weekend marks the end of that stretch, but it won’t be long before these two teams meet again; they’ll play a pre-Thanksgiving matchup on November 22nd in Youngstown.
Muskegon has won two of the first three in this eight-game regular-season series, and will have a couple luxuries heading into Saturday’s game. First off, Youngstown plays on the road on Friday against Central Illinois, while Muskegon has the night off. The extra night of rest could help Muskegon, especially on Sunday, when the Phantoms will play their third consecutive game.
Second, Muskegon will have the benefit of a home crowd that always comes out in droves for their annual Military Appreciation Game. On Saturday, the Lumberjacks will wear special military-themed jerseys that will be auctioned off postgame. Puck drop is slated for 7:15pm, and with a large crowd expected, be sure to buy tickets ahead of time by calling the LC Walker Arena box office at 231-726-2400.
On Wednesday, Muskegon topped the Central Illinois Flying Aces 3-0, with Wyatt Bongiovanni providing all three goals for the Jacks. Bongiovanni, a three-year USHL veteran, had started slowly this year, but exploded Wednesday. He was a 30-point scorer last year in Tri-City, and this week’s hat trick will no doubt give the Quinnipiac commit confidence moving forward. His linemate, Emilio Pettersen, also got going Wednesday, notching three assists to boost his season total to five.
With Bongiovanni and Pettersen’s second line heating up, this offense gets much more potent. The top line has provided a majority of Muskegon’s scoring this season, but they can’t do all the heavy lifting. In order for the Jacks to be successful, the second line needs to produce, and they are doing just that heading into this weekend.
Two of Bongiovanni’s three goals on Wednesday came on the power play, another good sign for Muskegon. After a slow start, the Lumberjacks’ power play has scored in four consecutive games. After scoring only one power-play goal through the season’s first five games, the Jacks have scored five in their last four.
Thanks to an improved power play and increased scoring depth, Muskegon has outshot their opponents in five consecutive games. The Jacks have climbed to sixth in the league in shots on goal per game (31.40) and rank fourth in shots allowed per game (27.30). Youngstown allows nearly 33 shots on goal per game and has surrendered 3.44 goals per game, making them the third-worst defense in the USHL.
In net, Adam Brizgala has been a stalwart, and earned his first shutout of the season in a 21-save performance on Wednesday. Brizgala now owns a 4-3-1 record, a 2.07 GAA and .922 SV%.
However, with Brizgala having already started on Wednesday, and with Muskegon playing back-to-back on Saturday and Sunday, Keegan Karki may get the call for one game this weekend. Now in his 2nd USHL season, Karki gave up four goals in his Lumberjacks’ debut, a 4-2 loss to first-place Tri-City.
Saturday’s game begins at 7:15pm and Sunday’s game begins at 3:15pm. Saturday is Military Appreciation Night, and our social media platforms will have instructions on how and where veterans can get complimentary tickets thanks to local sponsors.
On Sunday, the first 500 kids 13 & under get a free concession voucher that’s good for a hot dog and a soft drink. Call 231-726-2400 for tickets!