By Jason Goorman
MUSKEGON - Call the Muskegon Lumberjacks streaky if you like – and that seems to be the case so far this season – but at least they are moving in a positive direction again.
On Wednesday night the Jacks were feeling pretty low following their fourth straight loss, which dropped them below the .500 mark for the season.
And there was reason to believe the situation might get worse, because they had to face the first-place Chicago Steel on both Friday and Saturday nights.
But the Jacks came out of the weekend feeling much better about themselves, following a surprising victory in Chicago on Friday and a 4-3 overtime loss to the Steel on Saturday at L.C. Walker Arena.
They very nearly won the game, but a late Chicago goal with just over three minutes left in regulation prevented that from happening. The Steel scored again early in overtime to steal away the win.
The Lumberjacks are now 9-9-2 and in seventh place in the USHL’s Eastern Conference race with 20 points, Chicago is now 15-4-1 and has 31 points.
While the OT loss is still a loss, the Jacks received a point in the standings for playing to a tie in regulation. That means they collected three of four possible points in the standings against a very good team.
"Absolutely, we'll take three out of four (points) any time," said a fairly pleased Muskegon Coach Mike Hamilton about his team's play against Chicago. "Obviously there's a little bit to learn there at the end. We overpursued the puck a little bit with three minutes left in the game, instead of keeping them shut down. Shutting games down is something that we're going to learn from that kind of mistake."
The Lumberjacks came out flat in the first period and were outshot 13-5. They trailed 1-0 at the first break following a goal by Chicago’s Owen Power.
Muskegon’s Danil Gushchin tied the game about a minute into the second period with a wrist shot that ricocheted off the top left corner post and into the net. The power play goal was assisted by Oliver MacDonald.
The Lumberjacks took a 2-1 lead four minutes later when Tanner Kelly scored his first goal of the season on a rebound off a shot by MacDonald that was stopped by Chicago goaltender Ian Shane.
Chicago's Gunnarwolfe Fontaine tied the game 2-2 with a power play goal at 9:16 of the second period.