The Muskegon Lumberjacks had not been impressing anyone with their defense over the past month or so.
They Jacks managed to win a few games, but had to score a lot to do it, like eight goals against Chicago last weekend and nine against Team USA on Dec. 30.
That’s why the Jacks’ hard-fought 3-1 victory over the Youngstown Phantoms on Friday at Muskegon’s Trinity Health Arena was extra welcome.
The Jacks didn’t score at all in the first period, had one goal in the second and two more in the third. But they remained patient and waited for their chances on offense, while the defense and goalie Raythan Robbins held the Phantoms in check all night.
“I thought it was one of our best defensive games all year,” said Lumberjacks coach Parker Burgess, whose 15-13-2 team will host Youngstown again on Saturday night. “Getting back on pucks, making strong plays and not giving them second or third opportunities. We were also able to stay out of the penalty box, which helps as well.”
“In this league you have to find different ways to win, and we were able to do that tonight with a good defensive effort.”
The victory was the second as a Lumberjack for Robbins. He was drafted in the offseason to be the Jacks’ starting goalie, but spent the fall as a practice goalie with his future college team at the University of Nebraska-Omaha.
That meant he didn’t get any game action for the first few months of the season, but his performance on Friday – 26 saves on 27 shots – showed that he’s reaching his peak form.
“You can see in practice that he is an outgoing kid and is comfortable with the structure, with the coaching and the defense, and he was excellent tonight,” Burgess said about Robbins, who finally joined the Jacks in December.
The Jacks had to remain patience on offense because Youngstown goalie Colin Wynn made a series of great saves in the first part of the game, and the first period ended scoreless.
The Lumberjacks finally got to Winn at the 7:36 mark of the second period when William Hughes knocked in the rebound of a blocked shot from close range. Muskegon worked hard for that first goal, outshooting the Phantoms 13-5 in the second.
Rookie Sacha Boisvert gave the Jacks a 2-0 lead at 9:52 of the third period when he found the net with a wrist shot from the top of the left circle on the power play.
Youngstown’s Shane LaChance broke the shutout with a goal at 13:24 of the third, and the outcome remained in doubt for a few minutes, before Muskegon’s Ethan Whitcomb settled the issue with an empty-net goal at 19:29.
The Jacks outshot the Phantoms 36-27.