WATERLOO, IA – The Muskegon Lumberjacks can’t keep making it a habit of falling behind by multiple goals in the first half of their hockey games.
The Lumberjacks got away with it Friday night at Sioux City, but couldn’t mount a comeback for a win on back-to-back nights.
Muskegon fell behind Waterloo 3-0 Saturday night, and its comeback effort only netted one goal despite plenty of pressure down the stretch.
Waterloo’s Logan Stein allowed just one of the 31 shots fired at him to find the net to lead the host Black Hawks to a 3-1 win over the Lumberjacks at Young Arena.
Muskegon went 1-1 on the long trip through Iowa against some pretty good competition.
“This trip is as good as it gets when it comes to getting ready for playoff hockey,” Hamilton said. “We see where we’re at and we know what we need to work on, so I think it was a successful trip.”
The Lumberjacks, who fall to 28-9-2-1 and remain at 59 points, rallied from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Musketeers 5-4 Friday.
Muskegon could not take advantage of Tri-City’s 3-0 loss at Des Moines to take the USHL overall points lead. Instead Muskegon remains a point behind in the race for the Anderson Cup.
Waterloo is actually inching its way into the race for regular season champion, as it has won seven straight games to up its total to 56 points, just three behind Muskegon and four behind Tri-City.
Meanwhile Chicago shut out Youngstown 4-0 to move back to within eight points of Muskegon in the Eastern Conference.
The Lumberjacks poured it on in the third period to the tune of a 15-8 shot advantage, but it didn’t net anything on the scoreboard.
“(The Black Hawks) are a good hockey team,” Hamilton said. “Other than a little lapse in the middle, it was a great atmosphere and as close to playoff hockey as you can get. We played tight, we played well and really controlled the third period but just could not get one to go it the net. The effort was there, no doubt. The guys brought it.”
The Lumberjacks controlled play for much of the first period, but it was the Black Hawks who skated off the ice after 20 minutes with a 1-0 lead. Vladislav Firstov scored his 19th of the season on an unassisted goal at 11:52 of the first while the teams were playing four skaters a side.
Muskegon then compounded its problems with a bad start to the second period. A turnover in the neutral zone led to quick counter attack for the hosts which led to another goal, this time for Solag Bakich, and a 2-0 lead just 2:08 into the second period.
Shortly thereafter Waterloo went on the power play, and Emil Ohrvall had a clear shooting lane to the net and time to pick his spot and buried it glove side past Bussi for a power play goal and a 3-0 lead at the 6:21 mark.
Muskegon recorded its first shot on goal of the second period nearly 10 minutes in, and it resulted in a goal.
Ryan Savage, who was making his Lumberjacks debut after being acquired in a trade with Omaha, scored his first goal as a Lumberjack in his first game. He showed great effort in getting the goal, cutting in front of the net and depositing a nifty backhand into the net as he dove across the crease. Bobby Lynch and Colby Bukes drew the assists.
Muskegon actually started getting a lot more shots on goal from there, but Stein stymied all shots from then on out.
Lumberjacks goalie Brandon Bussi made a couple of huge saves early in the third period to keep his team in the game. Bussi stopped 27 of 30 shots.
Lynch had a great chance at the side of the net with 13:20 left but Stein anticipated it and saved it with his glove.
Muskegon went 0-for-4 on the power play, while Waterloo went 1-for-4. Muskegon had 31 shots on goal to Waterloo’s 30.
Muskegon returns home this week for a couple of games against Central Illinois. The two teams tango Friday and Saturday, with the puck dropping at 7:15 p.m. each night.
For the complete USHL standings, click here.