Muskegon Takes 5-3 Series-Opening Win against Steel
MUSKEGON, MICHIGAN - The Chicago Steel (16-5-2-0; 34 pts.) and Muskegon Lumberjacks (15-7-1-1; 32 pts.) battled to a 5-3 final with the Lumberjacks capturing the win on Friday at Mercy Health Arena in Michigan.
Muskegon never trailed in the victory, scoring the first two goals and leading for over 55 minutes of game time.
The Lumberjacks special teams were the difference as Jacob Guevin tallied a power play marker and Jack Williams converted a penalty shot attempt in the second period while the Muskegon penalty kill unit was a perfect 3-for-3 (100%) in the win.
Muskegon entered Friday night's contest as the fourth-ranked man advantage in the USHL, clicking at a 23.9% success rate, and the Lumberjacks used an early power play to their advantage in the opening frame.
Off a faceoff in the left circle of the Muskegon offensive zone, Guevin released a shot from the point that snuck past traffic and Steel netminder Simon Latkoczy for the game's first marker just under 90 seconds into the contest.
The Lumberjacks did a nice job of holding the potent Chicago offense off the scoreboard early, limiting the Steel to just six shots on goal in the first 20 minutes of action.
As time ticked down in the opening frame, pressure on the Lumberjacks forecheck forced a turnover that bounced to Tyler Dunbar. The blueliner was able to get a slap shot away from almost the same spot where Guevin released the game's first goal. Dunbar's shot beat the glove of Latkoczy with just under two minutes to play in the first.
A pair of USHL firsts came in the second period for the Steel as Andon Cerbone picked up his first point in a Steel sweater before David Ma scored his first USHL goal.
Just short of five minutes into the second, Steel forward Josh Doan fed a pass to Cerbone who slid the puck right back to Doan, giving Doan an empty cage to cut the deficit to 2-1. With the goal, Doan has now registered 17 points (8G, 9A) over his last eight games.
The leading scorer in the USHL, Matt Coronato, evened the score midway through the second period. Coronato picked up a pass from Adam Fantilli, skating left and shooting right for his 19th goal of the season.
The Lumberjacks jumped back in front just two minutes later. Nick Portz picked up a rebound from a Danil Gushchin wrist shot, putting his club ahead by a 3-2 margin.
David Ma ripped home his first goal of the season to tie the game with four minutes to play in the middle frame. The blueliner gathered the puck from Coronato just inside the left circle and beat Skorpik to his glove side.
Once again, the tie was short-lived as Muskegon snatched the lead back on a penalty shot from Williams just over a minute after Ma's marker. After drawing a penalty on a breakaway, the Lumberjacks forward used change of speed to his advantage as he netted his eighth goal of the season.
Muskegon's stifling defense emerged once again in the third, led by goaltender Jan Skorpik who turned away all 14 shots he faced in the final frame to bring his total to 30 saves for the night.
Skorpik's most impressive stop came with less than five minutes on the clock with the Steel on a power play. The USHL's second-leading scorer, Sean Farrell, was sent in front of two Muskegon defenders on a partial breakaway. Only able to get off a backhand attempt, Skorpik snuffed out Farrell's bid to tie the game.
Lumberjacks forward Danil Gushchin stretched the lead to two goals as he tallied an empty-net goal with 11 seconds on the clock to ice the series-opening victory for his club.
The Steel and Lumberjacks make the trek to Fox Valley Ice Arena for two games to close out the weekend. Saturday's contest is scheduled for a 7:05 pm CT puck drop while Sunday's game is scheduled for 3:05 pm CT. Both games are presented by Geneva Family Dental.
Chicago Steel games may be heard on Mixlr at http://mixlr.com/chicago-steel/ (AUDIO) and video may be streamed on available devices through HockeyTV at www.hockeytv.com (VIDEO). Chicago Steel Upcoming Games presented by Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush:
Saturday, January 30 vs Muskegon Lumberjacks (7:05 pm CT) presented by Geneva Family Dental
Sunday, January 31 vs Muskegon Lumberjacks (3:05 pm CT) presented by Geneva Family Dental
Friday, February 5 at Green Bay Gamblers (7:05 pm CT)
For more information, call 855-51-STEEL or visit ChicagoSteelHockeyTeam.com.
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