MUSKEGON, MI- The Muskegon Lumberjacks fended off a furious attack by the Chicago Steel, preserving their third-period lead and winning 5-3.
Chicago fired 14 shots on goal in the third period, attempting to erase Muskegon’s 4-3 lead, but both netminder Jan Skorpik and the Jacks’ penalty kill stood tall, and turned Chicago away in the first of this three-game series.
Muskegon is now just two points behind Chicago in the Eastern Conference standings, with two more games against the Steel this weekend.
Muskegon started the game strong, getting a power-play goal 1:27 into the game. Defenseman Jacob Guevin rifled a point shot past goalie Simon Latkoczy, putting Muskegon on the board early.
Tyler Dunbar added another goal for the Jacks with 1:57 to play in the first, giving Muskegon a 2-0 lead after one.
In the second, the game opened up, and the teams traded punches back and forth. Chicago threw the first two haymakers, getting goals from Josh Doan and Matt Coronato to tie the game at two.
Muskegon’s Nick Portz would answer back, scoring his third goal and eighth point in just his third game as a Lumberjack. Portz’s goal was set up by Danil Gushchin’s stellar pass, and gave Muskegon the 3-2 lead with 6:54 to play in the second.
Chicago’s David Ma scored his first-career USHL goal to knot the game back up, but with 1:58 to play in the second, Muskegon’s Jack Williams was awarded a penalty shot and capitalized on it, pushing Muskegon ahead 4-3 by the second break.
In the third, Chicago piled up scoring chances to try and tie the game, but Skorpik made several top-notch saves to keep Muskegon in front. Skorpik improves to 9-4-1 with the win, and made 30 saves on 33 Chicago shots.
With Chicago’s net empty, Gushchin forced a turnover in the neutral zone, and iced the game with the empty-net goal with just 11 seconds remaining.
Cameron Berg turned 19 today, but failed to find the scoresheet for the first time in 13 games. His 12-game point streak will end as the third-longest in franchise history, just one game short of Andrei Svechnikov and Anthony Del Gaizo’s record.
Muskegon and Chicago will continue this weekend trio tomorrow in Chicago, with puck drop scheduled for 8:05pm.
Muskegon goals: Guevin (6), Dunbar (4), Portz (8), Williams (8)
Muskegon assists: Tanner Kelly (12), Portz (10), Gushchin (17), Guevin (16)