MUSKEGON, MI - Home hasn't been as sweet as the Muskegon Lumberjacks would like.
While the Lumberjacks are amazingly unblemished on the road at 10-0, they've been a little more vulnerable at home.
Friday Muskegon dropped to 8-4 at L.C. Walker Arena as it lost a 3-2 decision to Eastern Conference rival Dubuque despite 3,274 fans packed into the arena.
The Lumberjacks beat the Fighting Saints 5-4 on the road Sunday, but the Fighting Saints returned the favor in the middle of three straight games against each other. The rubber game is Saturday night at L.C. Walker Arena at 7:15 p.m.
"We have a lot to learn from it," Muskegon coach Mike Hamilton said. "It was a good test for our guys. They played a little hungrier than we were. Hopefully we'll look in the mirror and dig deeper (Saturday).
The Lumberjacks lost momentum midway through the first period and never really got it back until Jack Williams scored his third goal of the season with just 2:44 to play in the game to tie it at 2-all.
The good feelings were short-lived, however, as somehow Dubuque leading scorer Matias Maccelli found himself all alone on a breakaway a little over a minute later off a feed from Logan Pietila.
Maccelli was able to deke Muskegon goalie Brandon Bussi out of position and bury the shot with only 1:11 remaining in regulation to hand Muskegon its fourth loss.
The Lumberjacks still lead the United States Hockey League with 36 points, although now they have the same number of losses in regulation as the Western Conference leaders Tri-City and Sioux City.
The Fighting Saints meanwhile improve to 10-9-1-2 and creep a little closer to the Lumberjacks with 23 points.
Dubuque outshot Muskegon 38-28. Muskegon held a 12-1 shot advantage early but were outshot 37-16 the rest of the way.
"(The Fighting Saints) did a good job of taking away a lot of our offense," Hamilton said. "They were taking a lot of our entries away, which is our bread and butter.
"They were playing with a lot of desperation and diving all over the place. We didn't do a good enough job of getting the pucks through to the net."
Nolan Sullivan scored his team-leading 12th of the season from Jagger Joshua at the 8:47 mark to stake the hosts to a 1-0 lead.
Dubuque owned the rest of the period and the second period as well and took a 2-1 lead through 40 minutes. Verners Egle tied the score with an even strength tally at 8:22 of the middle frame and Pietila scored a power play goal at 14:15 to give the guests their first lead.
Cam McDonald assisted on Williams' game-tying goal.
Bussi stopped 35 of 38 shots but still fell to 18-2. Fighting Saints goalie Matthew Thiessen made 26 saves to get the win.
One of Muskegon's focal points in practice this week was to work on special teams.
The work didn't necessarily translate into the game stats, as Dubuque finished 1-for-5 on the power play and Muskegon was 0-for-4.
The Lumberjacks earned a pair of power plays within the first four minutes of the game, but couldn't cash in on either. Hamilton was encouraged by how they looked, however.
"You don't necessarily have to score to have successful power plays," he said. "You want to create momentum, and we certainly did that. We were up 12-1 in shots at one point, and were able to build a lot of energy off of them.
"I thought we did a good job of coming back. We pout ourselves in position to win, but one mental error cost us in the end."
For more stats and info visit ushl.com.