DUBUQUE, IA – Dubuque has given the Muskegon Lumberjacks all they can handle through four games this season.
The Fighting Saints and Lumberjacks have now played four games after Friday’s 3-2 overtime win for the Fighting Saints, and each one has been decided by one goal.
Dubuque evened the season series at 2-all thanks to leading scorer Matias Maccelli’s goal 2:02 into OT.
The meeting in Dubuque was the final time the two Eastern Conference teams will play in the regular season.
Based on the way the Fighting Saints have played against the Lumberjacks, it might not be the last time the two teams come together on the ice, as there’s a good chance they see each other in the playoffs.
“This was like playoff hockey,” Muskegon coach Mike Hamilton said. “There’s nothing to be disappointed about on our end. We did some good things, we just need to put our scoring opportunities away a little bit better.”
Both teams traded plenty of scoring chances Friday, with Muskegon holding the advantage in shots on goal 35-32.
The Lumberjacks never trailed on the scoreboard until Maccelli’s low shot on a semi-breakaway beat Brandon Bussi in the extra session.
Muskegon did pick up a point, but it rides a two-game losing streak heading into Saturday’s contest in Bloomington against Central Illinois.
The Lumberjacks led 2-1 through two periods, but Cooper Haar had time to plug away at the puck in the crease and eventually poked it into the net with eight minutes left in regulation.
“We made a mistake, turned the puck over and then in the puck battle at the net went for the puck and missed twice,” Hamilton said. “You’ve got to get the puck or get the body out of there in that situation.”
Both of Muskegon’s goals came in specialty team situations.
Mikael Hakkarainen’s 18th goal of the season came on the power play at the 15:58 mark of the first period. Alex Yakovenko and Egor Afanasyev drew the assists.
After J.D. Greenway tied the game 1:25 into the second period, Ryan Savage made a good move to beat Dubuque goalie Matthew Thiessen at 9:10 while the Lumberjacks were shorthanded.
Muskegon kept the lead, thanks in large part to Bussi’s stellar effort, for over 20 minutes before Haar tied it up again for the hosts.
“Bus was Bus,” Hamilton said. “(The Fighting Saints) dominated the first 10 minutes, and Bus kept it 0-0 and gave us an opportunity to weather the storm.”
Dubuque was outshooting Muskegon 9-3 in the first half of the first period.
Bussi’s best save of the 30 he made may have been a snag with the glove hand on a golden scoring opportunity for the Fighting Saints at 14:37 while they were on the power play. It kept the Lumberjacks in front for the time being, and may have aided in them at least gaining the point by getting to OT.
The Lumberjacks actually increased their lead over Chicago in the Eastern Conference to 13 points with the Steel falling to Sioux Falls Friday. But they could have gained two points instead of one.
“The guys are a little disappointed,” Hamilton added. “It’s a game I think they felt they should have won, and it’s a game we put a lot of value on.
“We did a lot of good things, but clearly the grade-A scoring chances we had need to be taken advantage of.
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