MUSKEGON, MI- The Eastern Conference’s top two teams will face off this weekend, with the Muskegon Lumberjacks and Chicago Steel doing battle for three games.
Muskegon is currently four points behind first-place Chicago, having accumulated 30 points to Chicago’s 34. The Jacks are currently playing some of their best hockey of the season, and own a 6-2-1 record over their last nine games.
Forward Danil Gushchin has been a big key for Muskegon’s recent success, scoring five goals and adding three assists over the Jacks’ last six games. Last weekend, Gushchin moved past Collin Adams and into second place on Muskegon’s all-time scoring list. Gushchin’s 113 points is just six shy of Matej Paulovic’s franchise record.
Gushchin has been particularly good against Chicago this year, scoring three goals and three assists in three games against the Steel.
Cameron Berg also has a chance at history this weekend, as the Jacks’ leading scorer is currently riding a 12-game point streak. With a point in Friday’s game, Berg would push his streak to 13 games, tying a franchise record currently held by Anthony Del Gaizo and Andrei Svechnikov. The Nebraska-Omaha commit turns 19 years old on Friday- what better way to celebrate?
Berg and Gushchin have helped Muskegon score 4.83 goals per game, the third-most in the USHL. However, Chicago’s mark of 5.05 goals per game is tied with Team USA for the league lead.
Chicago is the top team in the Eastern Conference for a reason- they have a three-headed monster up front; Matt Corononato, Sean Farrell, and Erik Middendorf are the top three scorers in the league with 41, 40, and 36 points, respectively.
Josh Doan, Ryan Ufko, and Mackie Samoskevich all have 20+ points for the Steel as well, giving Chicago six players with 20 or more points so far this season. Muskegon boasts three such players in Berg, Gushchin and Cristophe Tellier.
No other team in the USHL has more than two 20+ point scorers, showcasing just how many top-end threats this Chicago team has.
So far, the three meetings between the Jacks and Steel have been quite entertaining, with Muskegon owning a 2-1-0 record against Chicago. There have been late-game heroics, overtime, and a 10-8 slugfest that went down as Muskegon’s highest-scoring game of all time.
The series will be played both in Muskegon and Chicago, with Friday’s game at Mercy Health Arena before transitioning to Chicago for games on Saturday and Sunday. Friday’s puck drop is scheduled for 7:00pm while Saturday’s game is at 8:05pm and Sunday’s is at 4:05pm.