Vs. Indiana ice
L.C. WALKER ARENA, MUSKEGON, MICH.
wednesday, December 28, 2011
The USHL schedule resumes just as it ended 10 days ago, with the Muskegon Lumberjacks and Indiana Ice colliding on the L.C. Walker Arena ice sheet. Hopefully the two teams can recreate the drama of Dec. 18, when the Jacks scored a pair of goals 36 seconds apart to transform a potential fourth straight loss into a pulsating overtime win.
The Lumberjacks (9-12-0, 18 points / 7th in East) are gunning for their third win of the season vs. the potent Ice, as they also earned an entertaining 5-4 win Nov. 12 in Indianapolis. Mike McNicholas was one of the heroes for Muskegon two Sundays ago, as his tying goal with the goaltender pulled guaranteed at least a point in the standings. Max Shuart ensured that the Jacks’ first OT session of the season was brief, fooling Indiana goalie Jon Gillies with a long-range wrist shot to deliver a sudden-death win.
The Ice (14-7-4, 32 points / 4th in East) suffered their fourth loss in overtime or shootout fashion Dec. 18, the second-highest total in the USHL. Nevertheless, Indiana was surging prior to the holiday break, sweeping the defending Clark Cup champion Dubuque Fighting Saints in a two-game weekend series Dec. 9-10, then picking up three of a possible four points in Chicago before skating to Muskegon to complete the unofficial first half of their season.
- When McNicholasscored with 21 seconds left in the third to tie Indiana Dec. 18, it set up an exciting moment in Lumberjacks history. Shuart’s game winner 14 seconds into overtime was the team’s first sudden-death goal in 81 regular season USHL games. The Jacks earned six shootout wins last season, but were winless in three OTs. Also, they were the last team to play beyond regulation this year, going the first 20 matches without needing extra time.
- Jacks goalie John Keeney put together a prolific weekend prior to the Christmas break. The Californian’s 43 saves Dec. 17 against the U.S. National Team were impressive enough, but then he made 44 stops to trump Indiana the next night in Muskegon. His .912 save percentage is tied with Tri-City’s Adam Wilcox for sixth-best among qualifying USHL goaltenders.
- Ryan Lomberg and defenseman Nick Seeler have four points each this season against Indiana, while Shuart has three points – including a pair of goals. This is the fourth time the Lumberjacks have played the same opponent in consecutive contests; they are 1-2-0 in the second of back-to-back games.
- In spite of last Sunday’s overtime loss to the Lumberjacks, the Ice haven’t lost in regulation in five straight (3-0-2) and are just one standings point behind Dubuque and Youngstown for second place in the Eastern Conference. Indiana started the year 5-0-0 but were 6-7-2 in their next 15 games before starting their current run of success.
- The Lumberjacks have done an excellent job getting Daniil Tarasov off his game, as the USHL’s No. 2 scorer (34 points) has zero points and is minus-3 against Muskegon. However, rookie Robbie Baillargeon has done his job, netting three goals to lead all players in the season series.
- Baillargeon scored a power play goal Dec. 18, one of two on the night for Indiana’s top-ranked man-advantage unit. Sean Kuraly had the other PPG, giving him a team-best six on the season. The Ice power play has been particularly efficient on the road, clicking on 17 of 50 opportunities for a 34 percent success rate.