MUSKEGON, MI – There is a lot to be excited about this week for the Muskegon Lumberjacks.
The Lumberjacks are hosting a pair of games in a weekend for the first time in a month when they take on Des Moines this Friday and Saturday at L.C. Walker Arena. Friday’s game starts at 7:15 p.m., but Saturday’s begins an hour earlier than normal at 6:15 p.m.
The two home games this weekend are the first of five straight at L.C. Walker Arena.
This will be the first and only two meetings with the Buccaneers this season, so it’ll be a chance for Muskegon and its fans to see a new team with different strengths.
“Des Moines’ a great team,” Muskegon coach Mike Hamilton said. “They’ve been through the same pace to the season we have. They started the season on fire, went through a little bit of a tough stretch, and now have gotten back on track and have won three straight.
“It should be an entertaining game. Both teams play with a lot of pace and generate plenty of offense.”
The Buccaneers are fourth in the Western Conference with 63 points, which would put them second in the East.
Des Moines’ paced offensively by Matt Brown, who is 10th in the league is scoring with 49 points. His 26 goals are fifth in the league.
“They’re a great team with lots of skill,” Hamilton said. “It should be a fun couple of games.”
Hamilton believes Buccaneer goalie Roman Durny is one of the best netminders in the league as well.
The numbers back that up. Durny is second in the league in wins with 24 (behind Muskegon’s Brandon Bussi), sixth in the league with a 2.48 goals against average and tied for fourth in the league with a .913 save percentage.
The Lumberjacks are closing in on locking up the top spot in the Eastern Conference for the Clark Cup playoffs.
With just 10 games remaining for the Lumberjacks, the magic number to clinch the No. 1 seed in the East is 12, meaning any time the Lumberjacks win or the Chicago Steel lose adding up to 12 the Lumberjacks will clinch.
Chicago currently sits 12 points behind Muskegon but has 12 games remaining.
“We’re hoping to get first locked up,” Hamilton said. “Then we can rest up a little bit and get the younger guys some more minutes.
“The main thing right now is we don’t have the same energy, and we need to get some for the stretch run. Hopefully being home for the next few weeks will help with that.”
Muskegon is also incorporating new defenseman Sam Miller into the lineup.
Miller was acquired at the end of February from Madison for forward Igor Larionov Jr.
The Lumberjacks needed help to finish the regular season on the blue line with defenseman Matthew Staudacher out with an injury, and decided to trade Larionov, who is out for the season with an upper-body injury, to the Capitols. Miller will be counted on for a few roles, including penalty killing.
“Sam’s fitting in and learning our system,” Hamilton said. “He seems to be comfortable and doing well for us. We went with five defensemen over the weekend and he logged plenty of minutes.”
For the complete USHL standings, click here.