MUSKEGON, MI – Don’t look now, but the Muskegon Lumberjacks are one of the hottest teams in the United States Hockey League again.
There are three teams currently on a three-game winning streak, including the Eastern Conference-leading Lumberjacks, the Western Conference-leading Tri-City Storm and Sioux Falls.
Muskegon will put its streak on the line on the road this weekend 415 miles away in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
The Lumberjacks have a two-game date with the RoughRiders Friday and Saturday, with both games at 8:05 p.m. EST.
Muskegon coach Mike Hamilton has liked what he’s seen from his team lately heading into 2019 portion of the schedule.
“The hope was they’d come back from the break refreshed, and I think since they’ve come back they’ve had some good jump to them,” Hamilton said. “You can see it in how they’re carrying themselves. Before Christmas they looked like they were dragging just a little bit. It was the perfect time to get away and freshen up the bodies.”
The Lumberjacks will practice a couple of times Wednesday and again on Thursday before beginning the six and a half hour trek to the middle of America.
Muskegon, which leads all of the USHL in points (47), wins (23) and goals (129), leads fourth-place Cedar Rapids by 18 points and defeated them 4-0 at L.C. Walker Arena before Thanksgiving. But Muskegon still expects a battle.
The RoughRiders are in the midst of a six-game homestand, so they should be well rested.
The’re also coming off a big 3-1 win over Des Moines, which is in second place in the West.
“They’ve been playing really well lately,” Hamilton said. “They’re a team that plays a pretty similar style to most teams in our division. They play hard and heavy, a lot like Chicago. They play tight and are hard to play against.
“It’s a quick turnaround for us with the New Year’s Eve game. We’ve got a pretty tough schedule this month, so we’re looking to keep things rolling and start this month on a high note.”
Cedar Rapids is led in scoring by center Nathan Smith with 24 points.
Muskegon’s Egor Afanasyev is now tied with Dubuque’s Matias Maccelli for the league lead in scoring with 35 points, including 15 goals and 20 assists.
Lumberjacks forward Bobby Lynch is just two points off the scoring lead with 33 points.