MUSKEGON, MI – The Muskegon Lumberjacks were having a really good night until about 9 p.m. Friday.
The Lumberjacks were beating Waterloo, one of the top teams in the West, by a 3-1 count and looking like a team on a mission.
But then the third period happened.
The Black Hawks scored four unanswered goals in the final 20 minutes to skate away with a 5-3 win at L. C. Walker Arena in front of 2,168 fans.
“We had two really good periods of hockey, but we stopped after 40 minutes,” Muskegon coach Mike Hamilton said. “Individually we made some mistakes and every one of their goals in the third period was on us. We were outworked back to our net in the final 20 minutes.”
The loss drops Muskegon to 2-3 on its five-game homestand. It has just one home game remaining, the last game of the regular season against Chicago.
The Lumberjacks now embark on a four-game road trip beginning Saturday at Central Illinois. Game time is 8:07 p.m. They are 5-1 this season against the Flying Aces, but the last time they met the Flying Aces won 4-0.
“This one hurts, because at this point of the season you can’t afford to give points away,” Hamilton said. “We’ve got to go at it again (Saturday), and we’ve got to find a way to put a good 60 minutes together and not 40.”
Muskegon found its offense at times Friday, scoring its first power-play goal of the homestand in the opening period on its way to a 2-1 lead through 20 minutes.
Alex Yakovenko made it 1-0 Lumberjacks 5:55 into the game on his 50th point of the season. Alex Gaffney and Nolan Sullivan picked up the assists.
Kyle Haskins scored for Waterloo with just over six minutes remaining in the period on a fluky goal to knot things at 1-all, but Ryan Savage connected for his 15th goal of the season with Muskegon skating a man up to give the hosts another one-goal lead. Colby Bukes and Yakovenko teamed up for the assists.
Savage struck again midway through the second period, with assists from Oliver MacDonald and Max Ellis on one of the prettier passing plays you’ll see on an odd-man rush, to give the Lumberjacks a 3-1 lead they would hold into the second intermission.
That would be it for the good feelings for the night for the hosts though.
Haskins connected for his second goal of the night at 4:46 to make it 3-2, then Zach Michaelis tied it up at 3-all at 9:13.
The Lumberjacks regrouped somewhat after that, but the Black Hawks were able to score in transition with 3:12 left in regulation on a sniper-like goal from Wyatt Schingoethe. Griffin Ness put the game away with 1:27 to play with an empty-net goal.
“We really did put together two really good periods of hockey,” Hamilton said. “The power play moved the puck from side to side pretty well, and our penalty kill went 7-for-7. At the end of the day though we didn’t play a full 60 minutes, and that cost us.”
The only good news of the day was Madison was able to beat the Steel in overtime to move Muskegon’s magic number to clinch the top seed in the East down to six with five games to play.
For the complete USHL standings, click here.