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Whitcomb's 2OT Winner Sends Muskegon to Eastern Conference Final. Defeat Gamblers 4-3

April 27, 2024 - United States Hockey League (USHL)
Muskegon Lumberjacks News Release

MUSKEGON, MI - Friday night brought the second longest game in the history of Muskegon Lumberjacks hockey. 84:30 minutes after puck drop Ethan Whitcomb (St. Catherines, ON, CAN) found the back of the net in the second overtime period to give the Jacks a 4-3 win in the do or die game 5 against Green Bay. With the win the Jacks advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the fourth time in five seasons.

Schedule information for the Best of 5 Eastern Conference Finals can be found at the bottom of the recap. Tickets for games 3 and 4* (*if necessary) will become available on in the coming days.

Scoring did not go the way of the Lumberjacks early. The Gamblers broke the scoreless tie 13:30 into the contest when Tanner Bruender tapped a back door pass from Josh Player to the back of the net. Early in the second period former Lumberjacks William Hughes ripped a shot just under the cross bar to extend the Green Bay lead to 2-0.

With just under 7 minutes to play in the second period the Jacks scored their first goal of the game. Defenseman Xavier Veilleux (L'Ancienne-Lorrette, QC, CAN) got a pass in the middle of the zone from Cody Croal (North Branch, MN) and smoked a shot off the cross bar and into the back of the net for his first goal of the post season.

The Gamblers made it 3-1 with just 1:06 to play in the second frame. Aidan Park found some time and space in the slot with the puck and used it to beat the netminder for his second goal of the playoffs.

It wasn't long into the third period before the Jacks would bring the game back to within one. Jake Toll (Rosemount, MN) sent the puck across the blue line to the near side of it and Easton Young (Grand Rapids, MN). After waiting a beat Young sent the puck back to the far side, though it went to Justin Solovey (Holmdel, NJ) rather than Toll. The Jacks' post season leader in goals and points did exactly what he has during the Round two matchup and fired a puck to beat the netminder over his shoulder.

At the other end of the period, still trailing by one the Jacks mounted a comeback effort. With the net empty in the Jacks end and an extra attacker on the ice Veilleux slid the puck to Matvei Gridin (Kurgan, RUS) on the far side of the zone. Gridin took a step towards the middle and sent a pass back to the near side for Joe Connor (Amherst, NH). After corralling the pass Connor sent a shot towards the low far corner of the net to tie the game with just 1:06 remaining in regulation.

In the post season rather than the teams skating 5 minutes of 3-on-3 overtime the game continues with full 20 minute periods of 5-on-5 play until someone scores a golden goal to win the game.

No one was able to score the golden goal in the first overtime period, so after 80 minutes of play the teams went back to the locker room and prepared for the fifth period of hockey. Only 4:30 minutes into the second overtime period the Lumberjacks decided enough was enough and won the game thanks to a goal from Whitcomb. Croal held the puck behind the net, and from the far side of the cage threw it to the top of the crease. Whitcomb pulled the puck on his back hand and used the back of his stick to lift the puck into the top of the net to send the Jacks back to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Shikhabudtin Gadzhiev (Makhachkala, RUS) (3-2) played lights out for the Jacks and stopped 27 of the 30 shots his way. Adam Gajan (2-3) was the reason Green Bay made it to game 5, and was the reason they survived until the second overtime period. He made 44 save son 48 shots fired by the Lumberjacks.

The Eastern Conference Finals kicks off with game one on Sunday evening. The full schedule for the best of 5 series is as follows. Game 1 | April 28 | 6:05 pm EST | Imon Arena Game 2 | April 29 | 8:05 pm EST | Imon Arena Game 3 | May 2 | 7 pm EST | Trinity Health Arena Game 4| May 3 | 7 pm EST | Trinity Health Arena* Game 5 | May 5| 6:05 pm EST | Imon Arena* *If Necessary

Every game can be found on the official live stream partner of the USHL, FloHockey, and for free on the Lumberjacks Hockey Network on mixlr. Tickets to the games at Trinity Health Arena can be purchased by visiting once available.

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United States Hockey League Stories from April 27, 2024

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