VS. CHICAGO STEEL
L.C. WALKER ARENA, MUSKEGON, MICH.
SATURDAY, JANUARY 7, 2012
Coming off a penalty-marred 7-3 loss in Youngstown Friday night, the Muskegon Lumberjacks complete their first stretch of three games in three nights at home against the Chicago Steel. The Steel, three points behind the Jacks in the Eastern Conference standings, have won three of four in the season series, including a 4-1 decision Nov. 26 in Chicago the last time the two clubs got together.
The Lumberjacks (9-13-2, 20 points / 7th in East) hope that home ice can sooth their recent road wounds, where they are winless in five (0-4-1). Last night, John Padulo recorded his second two-goal game against the Phantoms and Jordan Masters chipped in a power-play goal, but a 4-0 first period deficit was too deep to leap out of. Goaltender Paul Berrafato saw his first action in seven games when he came on in relief of John Keeney to begin the second period.
When the puck drops tonight, the Steel (8-18-1, 17 points / 8th in East) will have taken an entire week off, which may be the best tonic for the slumping club. Chicago was crushed 10-1 at Green Bay Dec. 31 to stretch its losing streak to four; the Steel have been outscored 23-5 since a 3-2 shootout victory Dec. 16 put them momentarily ahead of the Lumberjacks for seventh place. The Steel have begun to tinker with their roster, trading Kalamazoo-born power forward Zach Saar to Des Moines last week for Ray Pigozzi.
- Although they’ve had their difficulties away from home this season (3-8-1), L.C. Walker Arena has been more kind to the Lumberjacks, especially recently. Muskegon has earned at least a point in four of its last seven tries on the familiar ice surface, winning three of those and taking Indiana to overtime Dec. 28 to pick up another point in the standings. The Jacks are currently five points out of the sixth and final playoff spot in the East.
- Adam Chlapik, Rudy Sulmonte and Padulo all carry two-game point streaks into tonight’s tilt, as they combined for eight points in consecutive games in Youngstown. The trio of forwards were all acquired during the season; Padulo signed as a free agent in early October, while Chlapik and Sulmonte came aboard in November and December, respectively.
- Dakota Klecha’s eyes light up when facing the Steel, as he has a pair of two-goal games against them this season and five points overall. Ryan Lomberg and Matt DeBlouw aren’t far behind with three points apiece vs. Chicago.
STEEL CAGE MATCH
- It’s no secret the Steel are struggling again this season, although their eight wins put them just one shy of last year’s nine, the fewest in the USHL’s 60-game era. Chicago’s basement status this season is not surprising considering they fire the fewest shots per game in the league (25.8) and allow the most (35.1).
- Michael Fallon, Chicago’s leading scorer with 21 points, contributed the Steel’s only goal in the blowout loss at Green Bay on New Year’s Eve, although he was minus-5 on the night. Nonetheless, the Illinois product has been one of a few bright spots for Chicago, scoring at least a point in nine of his last 12 games.
- Despite their overall difficulties, the Steel have played their best against the Lumberjacks, winning all three home games. Jimmy Devito has scored in all four collisions with Muskegon and is plus-7 in the season series. Swedish goalie Mathias Dahlstrom has been in net for all three Chicago victories.