Cedar Rapids Squeezes Past LumberjacksApril 13, 2012 - United States Hockey League (USHL) Muskegon Lumberjacks
However, the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders absorbed the pressure and rallied back with two third period goals for a 2-1 win at the Stable Friday night, sweeping the four-game season series and sending the Jacks to their season-high sixth straight defeat.
Joe Cox scored late in the second to break a scoreless tie, the Lumberjacks' first power play goal in six games, moments after Mike McNicholas just missed converting a slick setup from Matt DeBlouw. Ryan Lomberg earned the lone assist on Cox' goal, giving him points in six straight games, a season high for Muskegon.
The Lumberjacks (17-35-7, 41 points) had lost only once all season when leading after two periods, but the RoughRiders (27-20-12, 66 points) made it two when Davey Middleton and Riley Bourbonnais scored 2 1/2 minutes apart early the third to steal the lead for the first time.
Cedar Rapids goaltender Jake Hildebrand held the line the rest of the way, making 21 saves in all to earn his fourth win of the year against the Jacks. The Michigan State recruit and third-year USHLer allowed only four goals on 96 Muskegon shots in the season series.
Hayden Stewart was working on his first career shutout through two periods, and the rookie netminder still played well in defeat, denying 19 of 21 Cedar Rapids attempts. His solid goaltending couldn't prevent the Lumberjacks from stretching their road winless streak to seven (0-6-1).
Muskegon will finish its second USHL season Saturday night in Dubuque at 8:05 p.m.; the Meijer Pregame Show begins at 7:35 on 92.5 The Outlaw. Cedar Rapids concludes the slate in Waterloo before traveling to Youngstown for a first-round Clark Cup Playoff series with the Phantoms.
The Jacks will miss out on the postseason, but they played like a playoff-bound team to start the game, as they dictated play and pinned the 'Riders in their own zone for long stretches of time. Muskegon had the game's first four shots and outgunned Cedar Rapids 7-6 in the first, but the teams skated to the intermission with nary a goal.
The Lumberjacks finally broke through during their third power play late in the second. Lomberg jumped on a loose puck at center and drove a low shot that Hildebrand stopped, but the Cedar Rapids goalie tried to poke it away and ended up delivering it right to Cox. The future Michigan State Spartan gunned his sixth to the top shelf with 2:13 left in the frame.
About a minute later, the RoughRiders thought they tied it up. Leading scorer Nick Saracino stole the puck in the Muskegon slot and threw a wrist shot that appeared to hit the crossbar before bouncing under Stewart in the crease.
So Jacks dodged the equalizer prior to the second intermission, which seemed significant because they were 13-1-3 when leading at that juncture this season. The RoughRiders had come back in that situation only once in 24 chances prior to Friday.
But when Saracino grabbed another takeaway high in the Muskegon zone and fed the open Middleton between the circles at 4:03 of the third, Cedar Rapids knotted the score and got the crowd of 3,000-plus up on its feet.
The Jacks were disciplined all night, as the league's second-most penalized team gave the 'Riders just two power plays, but the home side connected on its second opportunity at 6:35. Dennis Kravchenko, who fought Lomberg in the first period, used his hands for a different reason, collecting a loose puck and finding Bourbonnais alone at the right post for the routine finish.
Bourbonnais' third goal of the season vs. Muskegon held up as the game winner, even with the Jacks pulling Stewart for an extra skater in the final minute and turning the pressure up. Hildebrand's glove save on McNicholas with 20 seconds left thwarted the visitors' final prime scoring chance.
Call the L.C. Walker Arena box office at 231.724.JACK(5225) for Lumberjacks tickets and information, or visit startickets.com or go to your local Meijer. Season tickets for 2012-13 are already on sale for only $200 apiece (32 home games), but the offer only lasts until June 16!
United States Hockey League Stories from April 13, 2012
- Cedar Rapids Squeezes Past Lumberjacks - Muskegon Lumberjacks
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- UW Recruit Tendered by Gamblers - Green Bay Gamblers
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