Muskegon MI – After the Muskegon Lumberjacks built a 3-1 early in the second period, the Green Bay Gamblers scored four unanswered goals, lifting Green Bay to the win 5-3 on Saturday night.
This Green Bay victory pulls the Gamblers within one point of the second-place Lumberjacks in the Eastern Conference.
The first shift of the game was a milestone one for Ben Strinden, who scored his first USHL goal at 33 seconds to give Muskegon the 1-0 lead. The lead would be eliminated by Green Bay’s Ryan Greene on a deflection at 3:18 making it 1-1.
The Lumberjacks continued firing pucks on goaltender Matt Davis, outshooting Green Bay 23-16 in the first period. These efforts paid off at 16:06 on a backhand move by Bradley Marek, reestablishing the Muskegon lead 2-1 to close out the first period. The 23 first-period shots by Muskegon is the most shots on goal by any USHL team in a single period this season.
Nick Portz continued the offense for Muskegon at 2:39 of the second on a gorgeous deke, elevating the Muskegon lead to 3-1.
The majority of the second was back and forth hockey until Green Bay got a 5-on-3 power-play midway through the frame. Jake Schmaltz capitalized on a rebound at 12:16, cutting the Muskegon lead in half, 3-2.
There could have been a second power play goal for Green Bay, but Davis Pennington, while lying prone on the ice, kicked the puck away from Nate Reid. However, Jackson Kunz then got the equalizer skating even-strength at 19:04 on the backhand, making the score 3-3 after two periods.
In the third period, Muskegon had some good chances early, but the game would be turned on a fortuitous bounce off of the zamboni door at 4:13. The puck ricocheted to Green Bay’s Nate Hanley, with Muskegon netminder Nate Redi unaware between the pipes. Hanley didn’t miss, and tapped it past Reid to give the Gamblers their first lead of the night.
Later in the third, a scary hit occurred when Jarod Crespo violently elbowed Strinden up high, giving Muskegon a major power play. The hit also led to Pennington fighting Crespo.
Unfortunately, the major power play would not yield a goal for Muskegon. Green Bay’s penalty kill came up big in the third, killing off nine Muskegon power-play minutes in crunch time. The Jacks outshot Green Bay 48-30, but Davis stopped 45 of those shots in the Gambler win.
Green Bay’s Jackson Kunz potted an empty-netter to seal the win with ten seconds remaining.
Muskegon will take the ice for another three-in-three weekend next week against Youngstown and Team USA U18.
Muskegon Goals: Strinden (1), Brad Marek (9), Nick Portz (11)
Muskegon Assists: Cristophe Tellier (14), Quinn Hutson (10)