MUSKEGON, MI- Merriam-Webster defines momentum as “strength or force gained by motion or by a series of events”.
In the world of sports, athletes may not be able to provide this dictionary definition, but they’ll all tell you one thing: they want it.
And after ending a five-game losing streak on Saturday, it’s exactly what the Muskegon Lumberjacks seek heading into two home games this weekend.
Momentum builds with every goal, every hard hit, every victory; and with that momentum comes confidence. Instead of seeing the goaltender, a shooter with momentum on his side sees only the net.
More than a quarter into this 2017-18 season, Muskegon would love to catch fire and rattle off a nice winning streak that put them back into the Eastern Conference’s top six and give them a heap of the coveted “mo”. They will have the opportunity to extend what is now a one-game win streak to three this weekend as they take on the Waterloo Black Hawks and Central Illinois Flying Aces.
Muskegon is getting tremendous production from defenseman Clayton Phillips, who was just named USHL defenseman of the week following a two-goal, two-assist week. Phillips now leads all USHL defensemen with five goals; his 12 points are second on the team, and third among defensemen league-wide.
Wyatt Bongiovanni has been red-hot as well, scoring five goals in his last seven games while adding four assists. Bongiovanni and Phillips have been a potent combination on the power play, combining for four goals and 11 points with the man advantage.
Waterloo comes in as one of the USHL’s hottest teams, however, and goaltender Jared Moe has been dynamite. The Minnesota commit leads the USHL in both save percentage (.942) and goals against average (1.45), helping the Hawks win four of their last five.
Waterloo has the USHL’s top defense in terms of shots, allowing only 25.35 per game. Muskegon, however, puts the third-most shots on net at 33.06 per game. Moe will be tested early and often by a team that has outshot its opponent in nine consecutive games.
On Saturday, the Jacks will face Central Illinois, a team that Muskegon shut out 3-0 on November 8th. Dating back to their time as the Bloomington Thunder, the Jacks have beaten Central Illinois seven straight times.
The Aces enter the weekend in 6th place, and are one of the teams Muskegon is attempting to leapfrog in the standings. A win on home ice would go a long way in erasing the three-point gap between the Jacks and Aces.
With Michael Graham on IR, Mikael Hakkarainen’s return still uncertain and Jachym Kondelik suspended one game for instigating, Muskegon has added forward Benito Posa from the Austin Bruins. Posa figures to step right into the Jacks’ depleted lineup, and could see significant ice time this weekend. At the Lumberjacks’ spring camp, he made an impression on head coach John LaFontaine.
“Benito plays a strong 200-foot game,” said LaFontaine. “He plays hard and will add a physical presence to our forward lineup.”
An 18-year-old from Grand Blanc, MI, Posa has scored six goals in 17 games playing in the North American Hockey League (NAHL) for the first-place Bruins. His 78 penalty minutes rank second in the NAHL.
Both Friday’s game versus Waterloo and Saturday’s tilt with Central Illinois begin at 7:15pm. Tickets are on sale and can be purchased online or over the phone at 231-726-2400.