MUSKEGON, MI- The Muskegon Lumberjacks won’t have to face the challenge of a three-game week, but they will have their hands full nonetheless. This weekend, Jacks hit the road to take on second-place Green Bay for a pair of difficult games as the Eastern Conference race begins to heat up.
Green Bay has started the year on the right foot, as their 10-3-1 record reflects. Led by Boston Bruins prospect Mason Lohrei, the Gamblers have both a high-powered offense and a (relatively) stingy defense.
Despite allowing 3.43 goals per game, the Gamblers boast the best defense in the high-scoring Eastern Conference. Their offense scores 4.21 goals per game, the fourth-best clip in the USHL.
As much as we love to talk about the dazzling play of forwards like John Farinacci, Danil Gushchin, and Cam Berg, it’s been a trio of newcomers leading the charge of late for Muskegon.
Bradley Marek, Quinn Hutson, and Nate Reid are all new to Muskegon, but all have played like veterans recently. Marek scored both the game-tying and game-winning goals in an overtime win against first-place Chicago on December 19 in just his third game as a Jack. Hutson, who has now played five games in a Muskegon sweater, tallied five points (3-2-5) in three games last week. Reid made his Lumberjacks debut in net on January second and earned the win, making 32 saves on 35 Team USA shots.
“Reid is going to get an opportunity in net,” said Head Coach Mike Hamilton. “We’ll see if he can build on the success he had against Team USA. He had good puck control in that one and we hope that continues.”
Unfortunately for Muskegon, Marek was injured and won’t make the trip to Green Bay this weekend. However, Hutson was named USHL Forward of the week after last week’s five-point performance and carries momentum into the series with Green Bay.
“The puck seems to follow Hutson,” said Hamilton. “The offense will come for him; he just needs to improve on his play without the puck.”
As for the ongoing goaltending battle, coach Hamilton is leaving it wide open.
“It can change day to day,” said Hamilton. “The job is wide open and we are giving guys opportunities to own the net for us.”
With Hank Kempf still out of the lineup and Marek now nicked up, Muskegon will call on two more newcomers in F Frankie Carogioiello and D Luke Krys, who will both play this weekend.
Carogioiello, a 2002-born forward from Ontario, played last year for St. Andrew’s College where he racked up 11-41-52 in 63 games.
Krys manned the blueline last season for Brown University, tallying a 4-5-9 line in 31 games. While Krys will make his USHL debut, the 2000-birthyear will bring a veteran presence to a young Muskegon defensive unit.
“We are excited,” said Hamilton. “We play Green Bay four of the next five and it’s a big opportunity for us to move up in the standings.”
Currently, Muskegon (19) sits two points behind Green Bay (21) in the East.
Both Friday and Saturday’s games begin at 8:05pm EST and will be aired on HockeyTV.com.