MUSKEGON, MI – All kinds of hockey fans and Star Wars movie fans packed L.C. Walker Arena Saturday night for “Star Wars Night.”
Unfortunately for the host 3,511 fans, to quote Obi-Wan Kenobi, these weren’t the Lumberjacks they were looking for.
Visiting Youngstown spoiled the festive night, scoring three third-period goals and never looking back in a 5-1 win over Muskegon.
The Phantoms have now earned points in five straight games, with a record of 4-0-1 in that time frame. The Lumberjacks have lost two of three.
Muskegon no longer holds the top spot in the USHL, as West-leading Tri-City passed Muskegon with a win Friday night to reach 50 points first. With the loss Muskegon remains at 49 points, but still lead the Chicago Steel by double-digit points in the East.
Youngstown features one of the best power-play units in the USHL and used it to get on the board first Saturday. It finished 2-for-5 on the night compared to 0-for-2 for Muskegon.
Brett Murray has been on a tear for the Phantoms, with points in 12 straight games. He was at it again with a pair of power-play tallies against the Lumberjacks, including one at 14:11 of the first period to begin the scoring and one at 18:54 of the second period to make it 5-0 Phantoms.
“It was just one of those nights where every mistake we made went into the back of the net,” Muskegon coach Mike Hamilton said. “We’ve got some areas we’ve got to work on, but it’s not something we’re going to panic over. I don’t think the score was indicative of how the game was played.”
Chad Veltri stopped 40 of 41 shots to get the win for Youngstown, which has beaten Muskegon in two straight since Muskegon won the first four meetings between the teams. Bobby Lynch spoiled his shutout bid with 48 seconds left in the game, with Igor Larionov and Matthew Staudacher drawing the assists.
The Phantoms really put the Lumberjacks on their heels in the final three minutes of the first period.
After Murray started the scoring, Matthew DeMelis made it 2-0 guests with 2:50 remaining on the first-period clock. Gianfranco Cassaro added another Phantoms goal two minutes later to stun the hosts.
Muskegon couldn’t get anything going in the second or third periods either.
The Lumberjacks started generating plenty of shots, but Veltri was able to track almost everything to his glove or pads.
“We had lots of shots and generated lots of offense, but the goalie is still seeing the puck,” Hamilton said. “We’ve got to do a better job of getting their eyes off the puck.”
Brandon Bussi gave up four goals on 18 shots before being pulled in favor of backup Ryan McInchak, who stopped 11 of 12 shots.
Muskegon returns to action Sunday afternoon at home against Central Illinois. Game time is 3:15 p.m.
For the full USHL standings, click here.