OMAHA, NE - The Muskegon Lumberjacks showed host Omaha why they are the top team in the United States Hockey League Friday.
The display began with Brandon Bussi, the winningest goalie in the league, stopping everything the Lancers could fire at him as he recorded his fifth shutout and 20th win of the season.
The Lumberjacks also put on a clinic in opportunistic scoring, burying four of their 26 shots in different facets of the game on their way to a 4-0 shutout in the first of two games at Ralston Arena.
A crowd of 3,077 watched as Muskegon improved to 20-4 with a league best 40 points. Omaha dropped to 7-14-0-2 and remained at 16 points.
Bussi was pivotal all game long. The recent Western Michigan University-commit was strong from beginning to end as he stopped all 26 shots he faced.
The Muskegon netminder entered the contest with a 2.13 goals against average and .924 save percentage, second in the league, and both of those marks will see an uptick after his stellar performance Friday night.
Omaha went 0-for-5 on the power play thanks in large part to Bussi and an increased focus on the special teams in the last two weeks.
Muskegon also cashed in on its first power play opportunity for the game-winning goal.
Igor Larionov II scored his fourth goal of the season at 7:13 of the first period for the Lumberjacks, who finished 1-for-3 with the man advantage. Colby Bukes and Bobby Lynch drew the assists, both of which were their 16th of the season.
From there the Lancers increased their pressure, out-shooting Muskegon 11-7 in the middle frame, but they couldn't dent Bussi and the Muskegon defense.
Egor Afanasyev scored his team-high 13th goal of the season just 5:19 into the second period on a breakaway, deking Omaha goalie Jacob Kucharski out of position and scoring on the backhand before tripping over Kucharski's outstretched right leg and crashing into the net. Cam McDonald recorded the assist.
Danil Gushchin and Oliver MacDonald helped put the game away for the Lumberjacks, as each scored a goal midway through the final period.
Gushchin made a nifty move to beat Kucharski at 9:09 with assists from Afanasyev and Alex Yakovenko. MacDonald took a nice feed from Brock Bremer four minutes later to complete the scoring.
The same two teams will meet on the ice Saturday night at 8:05 p.m. EST with Muskegon looking to win its third straight.
Don't forget you can give the gift of the Lumberjacks to family and friends with the special Holiday Package 3-game plan. For $39 you can give a reserved (blue) ticket plus a free game program for each of the home games including Dec. 29 vs. Madison, January 13 against Central Illinois and February 9 vs. Central Illinois.
Deadline to purchase the Holiday Package is before the 7:15 p.m. game on Dec. 29. Contact Kaitlyn at (231) 724-5225 x255 or email@example.com to get the tickets today.
To see the complete USHL standings click here.