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Jacks Advance to Conference Finals with 2-1 Win over Dubuque

April 24, 2019 - United States Hockey League (USHL) - Muskegon Lumberjacks News Release

The Muskegon Lumberjacks advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals Wednesday, winning game four of the Eastern Conference Semifinals 2-1 over the Dubuque Fighting Saints.

After falling to the Saints 5-1 in game three, Muskegon scored the first two goals of the game and held on for the 2-1 victory, winning the series three games to one.

Muskegon advances to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2015. They'll face second-seeded Chicago in game one of the Conference Finals on Saturday, April 27, at LC Walker Arena, with puck drop slated for 7:15pm. Game two will begin Sunday at 5:15pm.

Jagger Joshua put Muskegon on the board 10 minutes into the game, redirecting an Alex Yakovenko shot past Dubuque goalie Matthew Thiessen. The power-play tally would be the lone score of the first period, a frame that had only 14 shots on goal in total.

In the second, Muskegon extended the lead when Nolan Sullivan generated a rebound with a shot off of Thiessen. Ryan Savage found the loose puck and snapped it past Thiessen to give the Jacks a 2-0 lead.

It would be short-lived, however, as Matias Maccelli sniped a bad-angle wrister past Muskegon netminder Brandon Bussi less than two minutes later, getting Dubuque back within one.

With a 2-1 lead and still more than 30 minutes to play, Muskegon stiffened up on the defensive end, allowing only 21 Fighting Saints shots in total. Bussi stopped 20 of them, keeping Dubuque off the scoreboard in the third and preserving the 2-1 victory.

Head coach Mike Hamilton, who wins his first playoff series as a USHL head coach, was thrilled after his team's gritty win.

"We locked them down in the third," said Hamilton. "We were calm and everyone was doing their job, keeping it simple. We had struggles closing games out down the stretch this year, yet there was a confident calm on the bench. It was something we practiced, the guys bought in, and it was fun to see them do it."

With the Eastern Conference Finals just three days away, coach Hamilton understands there isn't much time to celebrate.

"We just started talking about [Chicago]," said Hamilton. "We'll celebrate this one tonight, but we'll be at the rink tomorrow looking at film."

Despite last night's 5-1 loss to the Saints, coach Hamilton thought that his team was able to build off of a strong effort in the second two periods.

"We were actually really happy with last night. We were disappointed with our start, but we won the second and third periods and from that, we built confidence heading into today."

When asked about the Lumberjacks' defense in the third period, coach Hamilton had this to say:

"Absolutely it was [our best defensive performance of the season]. The guys committed to playing defense first and sacrificing offense to get it done. It was a complete team effort and I'm so proud of the guys."

Muskegon again outshot Dubuque for the fourth-straight game, firing 27 shots on the net of Thiessen. In total, Muskegon fired 152 shots in the series to Dubuque's 88.

Muskegon goals: Joshua (1), Savage (2)

Muskegon assists: Yakovenko (2,3), Sullivan (2), Egor Afanasyev (1)


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