KEARNEY, NEB – The second game of the back-to-back showdown between the two top teams in the United States Hockey League Saturday was as intense as you’d expect.
For the second consecutive night, the Muskegon Lumberjacks led in the third period and faced a fury of a comeback from the host Tri-City Storm.
The Lumberjacks were able to weather the Storm Friday night, but the Storm struck back Saturday night with an emotional 3-2 comeback win in overtime.
This time the Storm were able to tie it up and send the game to overtime thanks to Filip Forsmark, who tallied the equalizer with just 4:33 left in regulation.
Forsmark finished things off in the extra session as well, as Keaton Pehrson took advantage of a Muskegon defensive miscue and fed the puck to a wide-open Forsmark, who delivered the game-winner at 1:58 of the 3-on-3 OT.
The Lumberjacks were still able to get a point, so they captured three of a possible four points in the Viaero Center against the best team in the Western Conference.
“If you would have told me as we were leaving Muskegon we’d get three out of four points here I would have taken that all day long,” Muskegon coach Mike Hamilton said. “There’s no disappointment from our side here.”
Muskegon and Tri-City emerge from the two-game series with 54 points, although Muskegon has played one less game. It will look to take sole possession of the top spot in the USHL Sunday at 3:05 p.m. EST against the Lincoln Stars, who have lost five straight.
“The guys battled, and at the end of the day their great effort got us a point,” Hamilton added. Now we’ll turn our focus to getting two points (Sunday) to get five out of six (points) for the weekend.”
Muskegon, which fell to 26-7-2 and had its lead over Chicago in the East trimmed to 11, actually had a couple of good scoring chances before Forsmark’s goal.
Afanasyev got a good look right after he hit the ice on a change, but the shot was gloved by Tri-City goalie Jake Barczewski. On the ensuing shift defenseman Alex Yakovenko skated in alone down on the right side after a good puck movement with Afanasyev and Danil Gushchin, but again Barczewski stood tall.
Barczewski wasn’t even supposed to be in the game at all, but starter Isaiah Saville was forced to leave the ice early in the second period with an injury. The reserve Storm goalie did his job, stopping all nine Lumberjacks shots he faced.
“We were doing our job of running the clock and playing disciplined hockey, and in that situation you’re not sending a ton of pucks to the net,” said Hamilton, whose squad was outshot 24-11 in the final two periods of regulation. “It kind of backfired on us, but we’ll learn from it and move on.”
Muskegon starter Brandon Bussi did all he could, stopping 40 of 43 Storm shots.
Bussi had no chance on the game-winner in OT, and the tying goal appeared to have possibly been tipped with a high stick. After video review though the goal stood, and the game was tied.
Tri-City outshot Muskegon overall 43-23 after each team recorded two shots on goal in OT.
The Storm came out fast after losing Friday, outshooting the ‘Jacks 17-10 in the first two minutes. They scored the first goal just 3:25 into the game off the stick of Khristian Acosta.
Muskegon battled back, though, and scored a pair of goals in the final 3:04 of the first frame behind a pair of relative newcomers.
Zachary Nazzarett scored his first goal of the season at 16:56 on an assist from Alex Gaffney and Gushchin. Exactly two minutes later Max Ellis scored his ninth of the season but first with Muskegon after being acquired in a trade with Lincoln.
The Ellis goal made it 2-1 Muskegon, and that’s the way it stood until Forsmark got hot for the hosts.
Neither team could score a power-play goal all weekend despite several chances. Muskegon went 0-for-10 officially Saturday, but also kept Tri-City off the scoresheet on its 10 man advantages.
For a complete breakdown of the USHL standings, click here.