The Muskegon Lumberjacks kept grinding and nearly fought back from a two-goal deficit on Saturday, but ended up falling 4-3 to the Tri-City Storm in the finale of a two-game series in Nebraska.
The Lumberjacks, who won the first game on Friday night, are now 21-23-5 on the season, good for 47 points in the USHL’s Eastern Conference standings.
Muskegon has dropped to sixth place, the last playoff spot in the conference, after temporarily moving up to fifth last night. The Lumberjacks still hold a four-point lead over Cedar Rapids in the race for the last spot, with 13 regular season games remaining.
“I thought we had a good first and third period tonight,” said Lumberjacks coach Mike Hamilton. “We are not going to sweep any team in this league if we don’t compete hard for all three periods.
“There is no disappointment here, and nothing to hang our heads about. Getting two of four points (over the weekend) is good, but we need to work harder if we want to earn all four down the road.”
The first period was scoreless.
Tri-City opened the scoring at the 4:16 mark of the second period with a power play goal from Joey Cipollone.
The Storm made it 2-0 a little more than five minutes later when Chase McLane found the net.
The Lumberjacks finally broke through at the 12:49 mark of the second period, with a power play goal by Cameron Berg, who was assisted by Iivari Rasanen. It was Berg’s 20th goal of the season.
Calvin Dybicz scored at 7:51 of the third period to give Tri-City a seemingly safe 3-1 lead, but the Lumberjacks kept battling.
Muskegon collected a goal from Rhett Pitlick, (with assists by Hank Kempf and John Druskinis) at 12:50 of the third period to make the score 3-2. Tri-City went up by two again at 14:05 of the third when Matthew Knies scored.
The Lumberjacks collected a late tally from Rasanan with less than a minute to play, with an assist from Danil Gushchin, but could not get the game-tying goal.
Tri-City had a 23-16 edge in shots. Muskegon goalie Jack Williams stopped 19 of 23 shots. Tri-City goalie Todd Scott got the win, stopping 13 of 16 shots.