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Lumberjacks drop Saturday game 3-1 to Des Moines, split series

By Scott Brandenburg, 03/16/19, 10:00PM EDT

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The Buccaneers rode a goal with three seconds left in the first period to the win

MUSKEGON, MI – A sweep just wasn’t in the cards for the Muskegon Lumberjacks this weekend.

Despite a late push to tie the game, the Lumberjacks dropped the second game of their home weekend series with Des Moines 3-1 Saturday night in front of 2,940 fans celebrating St. Patrick’s Day a day early.

In a playoff-atmosphere filled with tense moments, good scoring chances and big saves, the Buccaneers staved off Muskegon for the split.

One night after the Lumberjacks dominated play early on their way to a 4-2 win, it was the Buccaneers who carried the play a little in the first period.

“The effort was there, I can’t question that, but I was a little disappointed in our slow start,” Muskegon coach Mike Hamilton said. “Then to give up a goal in the last three seconds of a period is tough to overcome.”

All the scoring came in the opening 20 minutes of the game save for Des Moines’ empty-net goal with eight seconds to play in the game.

Michael Mancinelli struck first for the Bucs, scoring at the 6:05 mark from Rylee St. Onge and Jackson Perbix.

Alex Gaffney answered for Muskegon. He evened the score almost five minutes later with help from Oliver MacDonald’s 17th assist of the season.

It looked like the score would remain 1-all into the first intermission when Des Moines converted a late 2-on-1 for a 2-1 lead with just three seconds left on the clock.

Hamilton wanted a penalty on the play that led to the odd-man Buc rush, but none came and the hosts trailed by a goal after 20 minutes because of Reed Lebster’s 24th goal of the season.

“I thought a call was missed, but we still have to fight through it,” Hamilton said. “I thought we responded well in the second and third but couldn’t score. We could have gotten a couple goals, we had a couple of tips in front but couldn’t get a stick on the secondary chances. The guys played well. You can’t question their effort.”

Muskegon outshot the guests 10-8 in the opening period, then really ramped up the pressure with 15 shots in the second period but couldn’t come up with the equalizer.

Des Moines goalie James Durham came up with several good saves in the last 10 minutes to preserve his team’s lead.

The Lumberjacks failed to score a power play goal for the third straight game and second against the Buccaneers. They were 0-for-3 for the second straight game.

“With all the talent we have the power play should be clicking at a better pace then it’s been,” Hamilton said. “We had a couple of really good opportunities.

“Figuring out our power play will be of great importance over the next couple of weeks as we get closer to the playoffs. When you go three games in a row without a power play goal you start to question things a little bit.”

Muskegon will remain home this week, as it hosts a pair of games next weekend against Youngstown Friday and Lincoln Saturday.

For the complete USHL standings, click here.