MUSKEGON, MI- One win is all it will take for the Muskegon Lumberjacks to officially punch their ticket to the Clark Cup Playoffs. With their magic number all the way down to two, the Lumberjacks host the Dubuque Fighting Saints for a trio of games this weekend at Mercy Health Arena.
The Lumberjacks find themselves on the verge of clinching with still nine games remaining, but more than simply a playoff berth is up for grabs down the stretch. Muskegon, currently in second place in the Eastern Conference, could still overtake top-seeded Chicago and possess home ice throughout the Eastern Conference Playoffs and beyond.
With the USHL going to three-game series for both the Conference Semifinals and Conference Finals this season, home ice advantage looms large for the Clark Cup Playoffs. However, for Dubuque, just getting into the postseason will be a challenge.
The Saints have made the playoffs every season they’ve played since re-joining the USHL in 2010. Their nine-year playoff streak is the longest in the league currently, but it’s a streak that’s in jeopardy.
Dubuque sits in fifth place, on the outside looking in, and has to make up seven points over Team USA to advance to the postseason. However, the Saints have four more games left on their schedule than Team USA does, giving Dubuque hope moving forward.
But standing in their way is the USHL’s hottest team- the Jacks have been on fire over the course of the last six weeks, winning 14 of their last 16 games. Muskegon is fresh off a three-game sweep over Team USA U18, and the Jacks have won four in a row.
Muskegon’s keys to success of late have been many- but Muskegon’s trio of Cristophe Tellier, Jack Williams, and Quinn Hutson have been nearly unstoppable offensively. Tellier has led the charge, recording 18 points (nine goals) in his last eight games.
Nate Reid has been rock solid in net for the Jacks, posting wins in each of his last four starts and 10 of his last 12. Reid’s 3.45 GAA is the fourth-best among Eastern Conference netminders.
The Saints have been playing sound hockey themselves, going 4-1-2 over the last seven games. Dubuque has a victory over first-place Chicago in that span, proving the Saints can beat the league’s best.
Dubuque added star forward Matthew Savoie in the middle of January, and after a horrible start, the Saints have drastically improved. After stumbling to a 1-10-0 record early on, Dubuque has gotten back into the playoff hunt thanks to additions like Savoie and Andrei Buyalsky. Savoie, a star 2004 who was drafted #1 overall in the WHL draft, has 16 goals and 12 assists in 25 games for Dubuque. The Saints are 14-7-4 since Savoie joined the squad on January 15.
All three games (Thursday, Friday, Saturday) at Mercy Health Arena are scheduled for 7:00pm. For tickets visit www.muskegonlumberjacks.com/tickets or call (231) 726-2400