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Muskegon Lumberjacks focused on rematch with Chicago Steel

By Scott Brandenburg, 10/16/18, 3:45PM EDT

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The Lumberjacks look to extend franchise best season-opening win streak and go 2-for-2 versus Chicago Friday

MUSKEGON - The last time United States Hockey League rivals Muskegon and Chicago met on the ice the Lumberjacks were having the time of their lives.

The Lumberjacks made their home debut on Saturday and easily skated past the Steel 6-0.

Chicago has been stewing on that result ever since.

While Muskegon followed that win up with a come-from-behind win Sunday, the Steel had nothing but time to think about the loss, as their next game is Friday at Chicago's Fox Valley Ice Arena against Muskegon.

The Lumberjacks, winners of their first six games to start the season, are expecting a much-different effort from the Steel this time.

"Chicago's a good hockey team," Muskegon coach Mike Hamilton said. "We respect them, and from our side we know they're going to give us one hell of a battle.

"We're hoping to have a good week of preparation and be ready to go. We've had great success so far but we don't want to be falling in love with ourselves and become complacent."

One of the items on Muskegon's agenda Tuesday was to talk about how to handle success.

The Lumberjacks are going to continue to work hard on the ice in preparation for Chicago, which comes into the contest 2-3-1, good for five points.

The Steel reside in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, seven points behind league-leading Muskegon.

"Our guys should be expecting to win - that's why we're here," Hamilton said. "But what's important is to understand what got you there. We have to continue through the process of working hard, blocking shots and doing the little things it takes to win."

The Chicago game Friday, which is listed as starting at 7:05 CDT, is the only game of the week for the Lumberjacks.

"Having just the one game makes our job easy," said Hamilton in reference to the coaching staff. "Our complete focus is on one team rather than having to prepare for two different teams in a weekend. Our practices will be 100 percent Chicago focused and driven, and it will be nice for the players once the game is done to be able to go home and enjoy time with their families."

Hamilton said he and his staff take part of the blame for not having the Lumberjacks ready to go in the first period of the 5-4 win over Youngstown Sunday, in which they rallied from a 3-0 deficit.

"We have a locker room full of competitors and leaders, though, and they looked each other in the eye and said 'we're not going down like that'," he said.

Muskegon's Danil Gushkin is tied for third in the USHL with eight points and Egor Afanasyev is tied for third in goals with four. Goaltender Brandon Bussi leads the league with six wins.