MUSKEGON, MI -- Punch and counter-punch was the story of a winner-take-all game three, but the Chicago Steel scored in overtime to end the Jacks’ season, 5-4, at LC Walker Arena on Wednesday.
Despite two-goal nights from Marc Del Gaizo and Vincent de Mey, Muskegon fell in the series two games to one.
After a scoreless first period it was the Jacks that got a power play less than three minutes into the second period. Great movement led to a shot from the right side that produced a juicy rebound for defenseman Marc Del Gaizo. Del Gaizo had a wide open net to shoot at and he made it count to give Muskegon the 1-0 lead.
The Lumberjack lead lasted less than a minute, however, when a long shot from the point produced a rebound in front of goaltender Keegan Karki that was tapped home off the rebound by Steel forward Baker Shore to tie the game 1-1.
Chicago got their first lead of the night just 63 seconds later off a breakaway that made it 2-1. But Marc Del Gaizo tied the game up after he received a quick pass from Benito Posa on the far right point, made a great fake to lose his defender, then sent a hard wrister that deflected off the post and past Chicago netminder Oskar Autio (48 saves).
In the third period the Steel took an early 3-2 lead, but de Mey answered back with the first of back-to-back goals that gave Muskegon the 4-3 lead with 5:50 left in regulation. However, Chicago roared back to force overtime with 4:06 to go.
Muskegon began the overtime session with 1:52 of carry-over power play time, and generated several great chances, but the Jacks were unable to beat Autio.
After the Jacks’ power play expired, the Steel went on their fourth power play of the night. Chicago’s vaunted man advantage was held in check by Muskegon all night, but it finally broke through in overtime.
Aaro Vidgren was able to tuck the puck into the net off a goalmouth scramble to give the defending champions the series win and the right to play Team USA in the Eastern Conference semifinal. The Steel became the first team in USHL history to rally from down 0-1 and win a three-game, first round series.
The Jacks will now look ahead to the USHL draft that runs from May 7-8. Having already agreed to a tender with Alex Gaffney, the Jacks will add weapons around the young forward, and a stable of returners who will bring experience into 2018-19.
Muskegon finishes the 2017-18 season with a 33-25-2 record and a 1-2 record in the postseason.
Muskegon goals: Marc Del Gaizo (1,2), Vincent de Mey (1,2)
Muskegon assists: Anthony Del Gaizo (1), Mikael Hakkarainen (1), Posa (1), Jachym Kondelik (2), Marc Del Gaizo (2), Egor Afanasyev (2), Colby Bukes (2)
MUSKEGON, MI- The Chicago Steel scored six unanswered goals en route to a 6-2 victory in game two of the Eastern Conference opening round. Chicago’s win levels the three-game series, forcing a decisive game three that will be played Wednesday at LC Walker Arena.
Muskegon opened the scoring in the first period when defenseman Alex Yakovenko found the net with a wrist shot from between the circles. Muskegon took a 1-0 lead into the second, but from there it was almost all Chicago.
The defending champions scored four goals in the second, including a run of three in 4:03, chasing starting goalie Keegan Karki.
Aaro Vidgren tallied two of those four goals, including the eventual game-winner.
In the third, Chicago extended the lead to 6-1 before Wyatt Bongiovanni found the net with a remarkable shot with 4:20 remaining. Bongiovanni recorded the assist on Yakovenko’s goal, giving him a two-point night.
The special teams units were a big factor, as both of Muskegon’s goals came on the power play and Chicago struck twice with the man advantage as well.
Steel goaltender Oskar Autio earned the win, making 38 stops on 40 shots. Karki took the loss, saving seven of ten shots. In relief, Zach Borgiel made 12 saves on 15 attempts.
Tomorrow’s game three will be only the second time in USHL history that a three-game series went the distance. In 2011, Sioux Falls won that decisive game over Sioux City, who won game two to force it.
Tickets will be on sale starting at 11:00am Wednesday at the LC Walker Arena box office. Tickets can be purchased over the phone at 231-726-2400.
Muskegon goals: Yakovenko (1), Bongiovanni (2)
Muskegon assists: Bongiovanni (1), Marc Del Gaizo (1), Egor Afanasyev (1)
MUSKEGON, MI- The Muskegon Lumberjacks have utilized one of their two available tender agreements, signing forward Alexandros (Alex) Gaffney from the North Jersey Avalanche.
Ahead of the USHL Phase I draft, teams can elect to sign up to two players to tenders in lieu of their first and/or second round picks. Teams must give up their first-round pick with the first signing, and if they make a second signing, they forfeit their second-round choice.
General manager John Vanbiesbrouck has signed Gaffney, electing to forego his first-round, Phase I pick in the 2018 draft.
“Gaffney is an explosive player,” said Vanbiesbrouck. “He has great vision and outstanding speed.”
Gaffney, 15, is a 5-foot-8, 150-pound forward who hails from West Orange, New Jersey. Playing for the North Jersey Avalanche U16 team this season, Gaffney scored 39 goals and added 31 assists in 47 games. Gaffney’s contributions helped the Avalanche win both the T1EHL and AYHL championships.
Committed to Harvard University, Gaffney becomes the fifth tender in Muskegon Lumberjacks history. The last time Muskegon used their tender was on Russian forward Andrei Svechnikov, who is the #1 ranked North American skater for the 2018 NHL draft.
By signing a tender, Gaffney guarantees his roster spot for the 2018-2019 season. Tender agreements include a clause stating signees must play at least 55% of their team’s games in their rookie season.
Muskegon faces the Chicago Steel in game two of the opening round of the Clark Cup playoffs tonight at LC Walker Arena. Puck drop is slated for 7:15pm, and Muskegon would win the best-of-three series with a victory.