PLYMOUTH, MI- The Muskegon Lumberjacks held off a frantic Team USA comeback, eventually prevailing 5-4 to clinch the three seed in the first round of the Clark Cup playoffs.
Wyatt Bongiovanni returned to the lineup with a bang after missing a month with an upper-body injury. The three-year veteran scored two goals, including the third-period game-winner, spearheading Muskegon’s offense.
Muskegon also got contributions from the bottom six forwards, as Will Schlagenhauf, Nolan Sullivan and Egor Afanasyev each tallied goals. Schlagenhauf tabbed an assist as well, notching his first-career multi-point game.
After Muskegon raced out to a 2-0 lead, things went back and forth starting in the second. Team USA and Muskegon alternated goals, with each potting two a side. The score was 4-2 after two periods.
In the third, Team USA upped the intensity, getting within one with less than two minutes in. Bongiovanni’s second of the night made it 5-3, but the U17s drew back within one at the midway point of the frame.
Team USA would apply the pressure for the remainder of the third, outshooting Muskegon 15-4. However, Keegan Karki and the Lumberjacks fended off the furious comeback, denying Team USA of an Anderson-Cup clinching point. Muskegon outshot Team USA in total, 30-27.
Muskegon extended a five-game winning streak on the road, and beat Team USA for the fourth time this season, winning the season series 4-3. The Jacks have won seven of their last ten games, the best mark in the Eastern Conference.
Muskegon will face either Chicago or Cedar Rapids in the first round of the playoffs, with the final playoff berth still undecided going into the season’s final game.
Whoever, the opponent, the playoffs begin Monday at LC Walker Arena. Tickets are now on sale for game one (Monday) and game two (Tuesday).
The Jacks conclude the regular season tomorrow against Youngstown. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:05pm and the game will air live on 92.5 Nash Icon and HockeyTV.com.
Muskegon goals: Schlagenhauf (3), Bongiovanni (16,17), Afanasyev (6), Sullivan (3)
Muskegon assists: Kaiser (7), Jachym Kondelik (17,18), Vincent de Mey (16,17), Schlagenhauf (5)