at Dubuque fighting saints
mystique ice center, dubuque, iowa
saturday, April 14, 2012
The 2011-12 regular season winds to a close for the Muskegon Lumberjacks, as they lock horns with the Dubuque Fighting Saints for the sixth time tonight. These two teams, both of which entered the United States Hockey League last season, matched up last Saturday in the Jacks’ final home game of the campaign; the Saints escaped L.C. Walker Arena with a 3-2 road victory. Tonight Muskegon will try to return serve and ruin Fan Appreciation Night at the Mystique Ice Center.
Last time out
For just the second time all season, the Lumberjacks (17-35-7, 41 points / 8th in East) lost in regulation after carrying a lead into the third period, dropping a 2-1 decision Friday night in Cedar Rapids. Muskegon’s losing streak extended to a season-high six games despite leading scorer Ryan Lomberg (Maine) pushing his scoring streak to six with an assist on future MSU Spartan Joe Cox’ second period goal that put the Jacks ahead. Rookie goalie Hayden Stewart was strong in making 19 saves.
The Fighting Saints (35-20-4, 74 points / 3rd in East) entered the season’s final weekend with nothing tangible at stake, since they had locked up the Eastern Conference’s No. 3 seed for the Clark Cup Playoffs. An apparent lack of motivation may have been the culprit last night when the defending league title-holders fell 4-2 at home to Chicago. NHL Draft prospect Zemgus Girgensons (Vermont) had a goal and assisted on Cody Bradley’s third period score; Bradley played his first game since sustaining a concussion in Muskegon’s USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game Jan. 24.
- Cox’ goal late in Friday’s second period was the Lumberjacks’ first tally on the power play in six games, a span of 17 straight empty opportunities. Muskegon scored a pair of power play goals March 3 at Sioux City in a 3-1 win, but since then the Jacks have gone just 2-for-45 with an extra body on the ice. Perhaps not coincidentally, Muskegon is 2-11-0 over that extended stretch.
- Chicago came back to beat Muskegon 7-4 Oct. 23, but until last night the Lumberjacks had gone 12-0-3 when leading after two periods. Surprisingly, there are six teams in the USHL who have not lost in regulation all season when ahead through 40 minutes of play. The Jacks have actually scored the first goal 29 times in 59 games, but they are only 14-11-4 when gaining the early edge.
- Tyler Heinonen (Michigan Tech) had his two-game point streak stopped Friday night, but the rookie Minnesota native has relished playing the Fighting Saints to the tune of four points (2g, 2a) in four games. Defenseman Ryan Bullock (Dartmouth) also has four points (1g, 3a) in the season series; the first-year blueliner is one point away from matching Heinonen’s total of 30.
Saints come marching in
- Although the Saints lost Friday night, just their sixth regulation loss all year at home, they are coming off a five-game winning streak that secured home-ice advantage in the first round of the postseason. Dubuque is 7-3-0 in its last 10 matches, helping it move past Youngstown for the third seed in the East and setting up a best-of-three against the National Under-17 Team, starting Monday.
- Girgensons, recently named the USHL’s third-best non-goalie prospect by NHL Central Scouting, has poured on the offense over the Saints’ last 10 games, posting 13 points (8g, 5a) during Dubuque’s recent surge. The Latvian-born center was joined by defenseman Mike Matheson (Boston College) on the Central Scouting final NHL Draft list; the Quebec native was No. 7 among USHL skaters and has 25 points (10g, 15a) in his first league season.
- Girgensons paces the Saints in the season series vs. Muskegon, posting seven points and a plus-4 rating in five games. Northern Michigan recruit Shane Sooth had his four-game point streak end last night, but the third-year USHL forward has scored six points (1g, 5a) against the Jacks. No. 1 goalie Matt Morris (Maine) and injured backup Connor Girard each have two wins over Muskegon.
UPCOMING GAMES (All times eastern)
- TONIGHT @ DUBUQUE at 8:05 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!