DUBUQUE, IOWA - The Muskegon Lumberjacks' bus ride home Sunday will be long but sweet.
That's because the Lumberjacks just finished off a 3-0 weekend featuring three games in three different cities.
Muskegon's last stop proved to be the toughest of all, but it did enough to edge Dubuque 5-4 in front of 1,412 fans at the Mystique Ice Center.
"Getting three wins showed a lot of character," Muskegon coach Mike Hamilton said. "All weekend long we put forth a good team effort.
'I'm really happy with the guys pulling together to get three wins. When we faced Madison (Saturday) it was their first game and our second, and (Sunday) it was our third game and Dubuque's second, so it was a gutsy performance all around."
The Lumberjacks took a 5-2 lead early in the third period, then had to hang on as the Fighting Saints roared back with a pair of goals in the final frame.
Dubuque took a timeout after Matias Maccelli made it 5-4 with 2:35 left in the game, but whatever it drew up didn't work despite putting on good pressure and pulling goaltender Matthew Thiessen.
Brandon Bussi and the Muskegon defense turned the Fighting Saints away to secure the 18th win of the season against just three losses. Muskegon now has a USHL best 36 points.
Dubuque will remain in fifth place with 21 points.
The Lumberjacks were keyed in the three-game weekend by fast starts. In each game the relentless attack led to their opponents replacing their goalie.
Muskegon led 4-2 through 20 minutes thanks to goals by Bobby Lynch (11, 12), Nolan Sullivan (11) and Igor Larionov (2).
The Fighting Saints decided to try to gain a spark by replacing starter Aaron Randazzo, who stopped just seven of 11 shots, with Thiessen at the start of the second period.
It worked to a degree, as Muskegon didn't score in the second period. But neither did Dubuque, so the game still stood at 4-2 with 20 minutes to play.
Nash Nienhuis looked to provide the back breaker with his first goal of the season to make it 5-2 Lumberjacks.
But instead it turned into the game-winner after the Fighting Saints responded quickly via Dallas Tulik's power play goal 1:06 later. When Maccelli scored with 2:35 to play, it set up a thrilling finish.
Muskegon, though, was up to the task, and when the final buzzer sounded a bunch of exhausted but relieved Lumberjacks gathered around Bussi to celebrate a 3-0 road trip.
"Bussi was rock solid all weekend," said Hamilton.
"Everybody was doing what it takes. Everyone dug deep. We blocked a couple of shots late and hung in there until the end."
The shots wound up 31-25 in favor of Muskegon, which was 0-for-5 on the power play. Dubuque went 1-for-3 with the man advantage.
Larionov, Alex Gaffney and Cam Knuble all contributed two assists for Muskegon.
The Lumberjacks will take on this same Fighting Saints squad twice this upcoming weekend with back-to-back home games Friday and Saturday at L.C Walker Arena.
For more stats and info, visit ushl.com.