PLYMOUTH, MI- The Muskegon Lumberjacks outlasted Team USA U17 5-4 on Sunday at USA Hockey Arena thanks to, in part, three unanswered goals in the second period.
Muskegon and 1st-place Team USA exchanged the lead twice, with Monte Graham’s late second-period breakaway goal being the difference maker.
Muskegon scored the first two goals of the game early in the first, getting goals from Marc Del Gaizo and Wyatt Bongiovanni to claim a 2-0 lead less than halfway through the first.
Team USA would fight back though, tying it at twos by the end of the first.
In the second, Team USA found the net on the power play 1:09 into the frame, taking their first lead of the game, 3-2.
But from there Muskegon went on a run, tallying three unanswered goals to take a 5-3 lead after two periods.
First, Anthony Del Gaizo notched a penalty shot goal, stopping netfront, deking to the backhand, and fitting it between the post and the outstretched pad of USA goalie Cameron Rowe.
Then, Colby Bukes flicked a shot through traffic on a Muskegon power play that somehow found its way past several bodies and then the twine to give Muskegon the lead back, 4-3.
Just 33 seconds later, a clever stretch pass from Alex Yakovenko found Graham open at the USA blueline, springing the Boston College commit on a breakaway. Graham faked the backhand shot, yanked the puck forehand and stuffed it through the five-hole to extend the Muskegon lead to 5-3.
The lone goal of the third period was scored by Team USA near the midway point, but Muskegon and goaltender Keegan Karki would fend off a relentless USA attack in the third. In the final frame, Karki made 16 saves, a number of them coming down the stretch while shorthanded.
Karki made 32 stops to improve to 18-12-0 on the year.
The win snaps Team USA’s six-game winning streak, and gives Muskegon four of a possible six points in the three-game weekend. The Jacks are now just one point behind Youngstown and Dubuque, who are tied for second.
The road swing continues next weekend when the Jacks head to Central Illinois to face the Flying Aces for a weekend pair. Both games are scheduled for 8:05pm and will be aired live on 92.5 Nash Icon and HockeyTV.com.
Muskegon goals: M. Del Gaizo (9), Bongiovanni (13), A. Del Gaizo (33), Bukes (4), Graham (8)
Muskegon assists: A. Del Gaizo (22), Mikael Hakkarainen (21), Yakovenko (6,7), Emilio Pettersen (24,25)