VS. CHICAGO STEEL
L.C. WALKER ARENA, MUSKEGON, MICHIGAN
FRIDAY, MARCH 9, 2012
The Muskegon Lumberjacks begin a critical stretch of home games tonight against the Chicago Steel, as they will play six of their next seven within the confines of L.C. Walker Arena. The next three weeks have the potential to be season-defining, with the Lumberjacks seven points out of the Eastern Conference’s final playoff position after falling in overtime Wednesday to the National Under-18 Team. They’ll need a win tonight to keep the sixth-place NTDP within range, and also to hold Chicago at bay, as the Steel are just two points behind the Jacks in the standings.
It was a bittersweet Wednesday night for the Lumberjacks (15-24-7, 37 points / 7th in East) in Ann Arbor, as they rallied from two goals down to set up OT at the Ice Cube, only to lose 4-3 in sudden death to the U-18s. Tyler Heinonen (Michigan Tech) scored his second goal in as many games to get Muskegon off to a quick start, and defenseman Rasmus Bengtsson completed the Jacks’ comeback midway through the third with a long-range tally. Mason Jobst assisted on both goals in the final period, and goalie John Keeney made extra time possible with 37 saves.
After winning three straight to move ahead of the Lumberjacks in the East standings, the Steel (17-29-1, 35 points / 8th in East) surrendered 13 combined goals in back-to-back losses to Cedar Rapids and Indiana to drop back into last place. However, Chicago kept its postseason dreams viable with a surprising 7-3 trouncing of Dubuque last Saturday. Andrew Miller (RIT) nailed two goals to push his team-leading total to 17, while Colorado College recruits Alex Roos and Jaccob Slavin each contributed three points to the Chicago cause.
- After a 6-4 loss on the afternoon of Feb. 20, the Lumberjacks were 13 points behind the NTDP for the sixth and final postseason berth in the East. Since then, Muskegon has gone 3-1-2 to make up six points in the playoff chase, starting with a two-game sweep of Indiana two weekends ago at L.C. Walker Arena. The Jacks went 1-1-2 on their just-completed four-game road swing; they will finish the season with six of seven away from the Port City.
- Three Lumberjacks marked season firsts Wednesday in Ann Arbor. Jobst, who played two games with the NTDP last year, recorded his first two-point game as a Jack against his former club, and Florida Panthers 2011 draft pick Rasmus Bengtsson netted a goal to give him points in back-to-back games for the first time in the USHL. Also, captain Carter Foguth assisted on Heinonen’s first period goal for his first point in 20 matches this season.
- Depending on the results of this weekend, Muskegon could enter next week’s action as few as three points out of the Clark Cup playoffs. On the other hand, since the NTDP’s two squads play a combined four games over the next three days, the Jacks could also find themselves behind by double digits with just 12 contests remaining in the regular season.
Men of steel
- From early December through late January, the Steel lost 12 of 14 games (all in regulation) to plummet into the USHL cellar with a record of 9-23-1. Chicago has gone an even 7-7-0 since Jan. 22, but they’ve been anything but steady during the last seven weeks, posting winning streaks of four and three games to counter losing streaks of four and two.
- Michael Fallon (UMass-Lowell) got a bit lost in the Steel’s offensive eruption Saturday against Dubuque as he was one of 12 skaters to record at least a point, but Chicago’s leading scorer did raise his point total to 36 with an assist. The Illinois native has had three point streaks of four games or longer and has played in all 47 Steel tilts this season.
- Fallon has five goals in the season series with Muskegon to lead all Chicagoans, but Jimmy Devito (RPI) has the most points, with nine (3g, 6a) in seven games. Swedish-born goalie Mathias Dahlstrom (Northern Michigan) is a perfect 5-0-0 vs. the Jacks, with a .927 save percentage in six appearances (five starts).
UPCOMING GAMES (All times eastern)
- TONIGHT vs. CHICAGO at 7:15 p.m. – Dollar Beer/Dollar Hot Dog Night presented by John Morrell. Offer stands from 6-8 p.m.
- TOMORROW vs. LINCOLN at 7:15 p.m. – Beach Night / Think spring with the Lumberjacks as this popular promotion returns! Call 724-JACK to enter a beach body contest and win great prizes
- Thursday, March 15 vs. GREEN BAY at 10:30 a.m. – Hockey for Health
- Friday, March 16 @ INDIANA at 7:05 p.m.
- Saturday, March 17 vs. NATIONAL UNDER-17 TEAM at 7:15 p.m.
FOLLOW THE JACKS ALL SEASON
92.5 FM The Outlaw is the exclusive radio home of your Muskegon Lumberjacks! Listen over the air or check out the action streaming online at 925fmtheoutlaw.com as Voice of the Jacks Matt Gajtka has the play-by-play. The Meijer Pregame Show begins 30 minutes prior to every game. The USHL is also partnering with FastHockey.com to provide video coverage of all league games this season!
JackSixty presented by Cinema Carousel is a weekly hour-long talk show devoted to your Muskegon Lumberjacks Tuesday nights from 6-7 p.m. at Hennessy’s Irish Pub & Restaurant. Located at the corner of Jefferson and Clay Streets in the heart of Muskegon, Hennessy’s plays host as Gajtka and co-host Antonio Bartoli talk hockey with Lumberjacks coaches, players and other featured guests on 98.3 FM WLCS!
THE SOCIAL NETWORKS
Never go hungry for Jacks news: “Like” the Muskegon Lumberjacks on Facebook and follow “@MuskegonJacks” on Twitter to stay plugged into the Jacks 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Also, find the Jacks’ exclusive YouTube channel at youtube.com/MuskegonJacks!