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Weekend Preview: Jacks Look to Extend Winning Steak Against 1st-Place Steel

By Scott Bradford, 03/04/21, 11:15AM EST

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MUSKEGON, MI- The Muskegon Lumberjacks have followed up a five-game losing streak with a five-game winning streak, and will aim to continue their winning ways this weekend at home against the first-place Chicago Steel.

The second-place Lumberjacks have won five consecutive, and the suddenly defensive-minded Lumberjacks have gotten a big boost from their goaltender Nate Reid. Reid has appeared in all five wins, going 5-0-0 and posting a .954 save percentage and 1.31 goals against average.

Reid has gotten help from the Muskegon defense, a unit that only allowed 47 shots on goal last weekend across two games in Youngstown. The Jacks have allowed two or fewer goals in each of their last five games, a marked change for a team that had given up more than four goals per game before this five-game stretch.

Muskegon’s defense will be tested against the USHL’s top offense this weekend. Chicago scores 5.06 goals per game, and is coming off a two-game series against Waterloo in which the Steel scored 14 goals. 

However, the Steel also allowed 14 goals in that series, and dropped one of those games to Waterloo as part of a 3-2-1 six-game stretch. It can hardly be called “a slump”, but Chicago won eight in a row earlier this season and has been in the driver’s seat in the East all year. For the Steel, losing three of six is about as rough as it gets. In fact, the Steel haven’t earned a regulation win since February 11, a span of seven games.

Muskegon is the only team in the league who has a winning record against Chicago, earning victories in four of the six games these two have played. But with injuries piling up for Muskegon, can the Jacks keep up with the high-powered Steel?

The good news on the injury front is that Danil Gushchin has been practicing with the team and the chances look good he will return to action. Should he suit up, he would give Muskegon’s offense a big-time boost. With Gushchin in the lineup this year, the Jacks have scored 4.79 goals per game. Without him, the Jacks have mustered only 2.71 goals per game.

Through this Muskegon winning streak, Quinn Hutson and Tanner Kelly have put together four-game point streaks. Kelly continues to be Muskegon’s most consistent offensive producer, and has racked up four goals and an assist in his last four games. Amazingly, Kelly has at least one point in 18 of the Jacks’ last 23 games.

Muskegon and Chicago will duke it out at Mercy Health Arena this Friday and Saturday, with both games scheduled for 7:00pm. Tickets are now on sale and can be purchased at www.muskegonlumberjacks.com/tickets