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Jacks Surpass Chicago in Preseason Shootout Thriller

September 15, 2021 - United States Hockey League (USHL) - Muskegon Lumberjacks News Release


MUSKEGON, Mich. - It may have just been a preseason game, but the Muskegon Lumberjacks finally got a win over the pesky Chicago Steel and celebrated like they just won a big playoff game.

Last season, of course, the Jacks spent most of the season chasing the Steel in the USHL Eastern Conference standings and had to settle for second place behind them. Then the Jacks were swept in the conference finals by the Steel in two close, intense playoff games.

Wednesday's preseason matchup turned out to be just as intense, with the two teams battling hard from start to finish to gain the symbolic victory.

In the end, the Lumberjacks prevailed 5-4 in an exciting contest that was tied at the end of regulation and the overtime period and was finally settled in a shootout.

Phil Tresca scored the winning goal in the shootout for Muskegon, which improved to 2-1 in the exhibition season.

The Lumberjacks could have secured the victory much sooner on Wednesday if it weren't for Chicago's Jack Harvey, who scored a three-goal hat trick in regulation, and goalie Nick Haas, who made a bunch of amazing saves in the third period when the Lumberjacks pounded the Steel net and had a 14-2 advantage in shots on goal.

But the Jacks hung in there and eventually got the victory, prompting the team to storm the ice after the winning shootout goal and celebrate pretty loudly in the locker room.

That's just the nature of the Muskegon-Chicago rivalry, according to Lumberjacks Coach Mike Hamilton.

"That was an intense preseason hockey game," Hamilton said. "In the first period, I thought we were a little loose and sloppy, but as the game went on, I was very happy, and in the third period, we really rolled over them. The only thing is that we didn't finish (on scoring chances)."

"They knocked us out of the playoffs three out of the past four years, so there is nothing to like about them," Hamilton added about Chicago. "We respect them, but every time we see them on the schedule, the intensity definitely goes up."

Chicago jumped out to an early advantage in the first period with goals from Harvey and Adan Fantilli at 10:39 and 13:27, respectively. The Jacks answered with a pair of goals from Quinn Hutson and David Hymovitch to even the score 2-2 at the first intermission.

Muskegon had an early opportunity to grab the lead in the second period when forward Ben Strinden was awarded a penalty shot but missed the mark. He made up for it at the 9:33 mark, however, when he picked up a loose puck, broke in alone on the Chicago goal, and scored, giving the Jacks a 3-2 lead.

Muskegon's Jake Richard added a goal less than a minute later, giving the hosts a two-goal cushion.

But Chicago wasn't done. The Steel rallied with a pair of goals from Harvey at the 12:26 and 14:30 mark to knot the score up at 4-4.

The third period was scoreless, despite Muskegon's offensive dominance and huge shot advantage. In the five-minute overtime, the Jacks had a 2-0 edge in shots, but the tie persisted.

The shootout started badly for the Jacks. Harvey scored in the second round for Chicago, while the first two Lumberjack shooters missed the mark.

Hutson saved the day in a must-score situation by finding the net in the shootout's third round, then Tresca buried the game-winner in the fourth and final round.

Muskegon goalie Jan Skorpik stopped 20 of 24 shots in regulation and three in the shootout. The Lumberjacks had an overall 41-24 advantage in shots on goal.

The Lumberjacks will return to action on Friday at 11 a.m. in a home exhibition game against the Team USA Under-18 squad. Click here to purchase tickets.

The Lumberjacks are gearing up for their 2021-22 season, starting the regular season on the road with the DICK'S Sporting Goods Fall Classic in Pittsburgh on September 25. The Lumberjacks home opener is October 15, taking on the Chicago Steel. Single-game tickets are now on sale. For more information, please call the Muskegon Lumberjacks Business office at (231)-799-7000 or email afranczek@muskegonlumberjacks.com.

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