PITTSBURGH, PA - The Muskegon Lumberjacks started the 2019-2020 United States Hockey League season with a 4-1 loss to Dubuque at the USHL's Fall Classic Thursday.
The Lumberjacks led 1-0 through one period, but the Fighting Saints scored three second-period goals on their way to their season-opening win at UPMC: Covestro Innovation Rink.
Dubuque added an empty-net goal late in the third period to secure the win.
Despite the loss second-year Muskegon head coach Mike Hamilton was encouraged by the overall effort.
"I was happy with the first and third periods," Hamilton said. "I like the fact that we much stronger defensively. We were a little too loose there in the preseason. Overall I was pretty happy with the guys, but we still have a lot to learn."
Muskegon will get right back onto the ice Friday in the second game of the Fall Classic at 5 p.m. against Lincoln.
Christophe Fillion got Muskegon off to a fast start with a rebound goal at 6:24 of the first period. AJ Hodges took the original shot and drew the lone assist.
The Lumberjacks and recently acquired goaltender Noah Giesbrecht made it stand up until Riese Gaber was able to find the net for the Fighting Saints at 5:09 of the second period.
It stayed knotted at 1-all until Dylan Jackson and Matt Kopperud tallied goals 30 seconds apart in the latter third of the middle frame.
"We lost our composure a little bit in the second period," Hamilton said. "We need to be able to put a full 60 minutes into a game in order to win."
The Lumberjacks regrouped in the third period, but could not find the net to draw any closer.
Dubuque outshot Muskegon 28-23. Giesbrecht, who came over to Muskegon in a trade on Sunday, made 25 saves in his first game in a Lumberjacks uniform.
Erik Portillo made 22 saves for the Fighting Saints, who outshot Muskegon 18-11 in the final 40 minutes.
Neither team committed a penalty through the first half of the game. Dubuque went 1-for-2 with the man advantage while Muskegon was 0-for-2 on the power play.
Hamilton will look for more growth from his team Friday against Lincoln.
"We moved the puck real well, we played with pace and we limited their chances most of the game," he said. "We just lost our energy in the middle and got away from making our hits. We need to put 60 minutes together next time."
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