at Dubuque fighting saints
Mystique ice center, Dubuque, iowa
friday, MARCH 30, 2012
The Muskegon Lumberjacks’ final three-game weekend of the season begins Friday night in Dubuque, as the Fighting Saints will be the first opponent in a challenging road gauntlet. The Jacks and the Saints will get together three times in the season’s last three weeks, matching the number of times they’ve met in the last six months. Defending Clark Cup champion Dubuque is 3-0-0 in the season series, although Muskegon earned a point in a 4-3 overtime loss Jan. 29.
Last time out
The Lumberjacks (17-29-7, 41 points / 8th in East) wrapped up their last extended homestand in their second USHL campaign with an inspiring 4-3 shootout victory over the Green Bay Gamblers at L.C. Walker Arena Saturday. Goalie John Keeney led the way against the league’s best team with 36 saves and four more stops in the tiebreaker, which defenseman Rasmus Bengtsson, a second-round pick of the Florida Panthers last summer,wrapped up with his first shootout tally.
Led by captain Zemgus Girgensons, the Fighting Saints (31-19-4, 66 points / 4th in East) finished a four-game road swing with a 4-1 win at Tri-City, stopping a two-game losing streak in the process. Girgensons (Vermont) scored a goal in each period for his first USHL hat trick in his 94th league game; the native of Latvia and probable first-round NHL Draft selection leads the Saints in goals (19), assists (25), points (44) and plus-minus rating (+14).
- Ryan Lomberg (Maine) has scored a goal in three straight games, the second time he’s accomplished that feat in his first USHL season. However, Muskegon’s leading point-getter will have to put his streak on hold due to a three-game league-issued suspension for a late penalty Saturday vs. Green Bay. Affiliate List winger Noah Batis, who scored a goal on his first USHL shift Feb. 4, will take Lomberg’s place on the roster over the weekend.
- The Jacks snapped a string of 16 straight power plays without a conversion when Mike McNicholas (New Hampshire) scored in Saturday’s first period. However, the penalty killing unit truly excelled against the Gamblers, keeping the league’s third-best power play off the board in six attempts. Muskegon’s PK has negated 13 of 14 opportunities against it in the last three games, improving to seventh in the USHL at 83.1 percent.
- Tyler Heinonen (Michigan Tech), Ryan Bullock (Dartmouth) and Bengtsson each have two points against Dubuque, even though they each missed a game in the season series to this point. The Lumberjacks have managed just four goals in three games against one of the stingiest teams in the USHL, as the Saints allow the third-fewest goals (2.78 goals against/game) on the circuit.
Saints come marching in
- Dubuque has clinched its second-straight Clark Cup playoff berth since rejoining the league last season, but the Saints will not match last year’s pace, when they went 37-14-9 and won the Western Conference. Nonetheless Dubuque has ridden a 17-5-3 home record to within one point of third place in the East, currently held by Youngstown. The Saints have six games left.
- The Saints’ defensive success has been largely predicated on their ability to limit opponents’ shot totals. Dubuque allows only 27.4 shots against per game, the lowest average in the USHL, helping No. 1 goalie Matt Morris through a bit of a down year. The future Maine Black Bear has battled injuries and has seen his save percentage take a tumble from .921 to .893, although his goals-against average (2.62) is still third-best in the league.
- Tyler Lundey is second on the Saints in points with 39, and the Ohio State recruit has two goals and an assist against Muskegon this season. Max Gardiner (Penn State), a third-round pick of the St. Louis Blues in 2010, also has three points in the season series (2g, 1a). Backup goalie Connor Girard has a .938 save percentage in two starts vs. the Jacks.
UPCOMING GAMES (All times eastern)
- TONIGHT @ DUBUQUE at 8:05 p.m.
- TOMORROW @ WATERLOO at 8:05 p.m.
- Sunday @ GREEN BAY at 4:05 p.m.
- Friday, April 6 @ GREEN BAY at 8:05 p.m.
- Saturday, April 7 vs. DUBUQUE at 7:15 p.m. – Fan Appreciation Night / The Lumberjacks thank you for your support this season! Enjoy $10 tickets and giveaways all night long.
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!