MUSKEGON – So these are the guys they were talking about.
When the Muskegon Lumberjacks surprised everyone by trading three top players a few days ago, including leading scorer Jake Richard and captain Owen Mehlenbacher, they said they wanted to create more ice time for talented younger guys who were ready to step up.
Michael Callow, Matvei Gridin, Ethan Fredericks and newcomer Ty Henricks – a youngster who was acquired in one of the trades – illustrated their point on Friday night against the Youngstown Phantoms.
Those guys produced five goals in just over two periods, then hung on through a late Phantoms comeback bid to snag an exciting 5-4 victory at Muskegon’s Trinity Health Arena.
Callow led the way with two goals while Gridin had a goal and an assist.
Muskegon improved to 17-18-2 on the season. Youngstown fell to 19-13-4. The Jacks will host the Phantoms in a rematch on Saturday night.
“We were physical and everybody played a lot of minutes with only 11 forwards and six defensemen,” said Lumberjacks coach Parker Burgess, referring to the shorthanded roster “The guys who were asked to elevate and take more responsibility did so tonight. It was a little hairy at the end, but that’s why you get those goals to make it 4-1 and 5-1.
“Our progression is to be able to do this consistently twice on a weekend. I’m excited to see our response tomorrow. Let’s get some rest tonight and go do it again tomorrow.”
The Lumberjacks were very efficient with their shots, scoring five goals on 25 tries. The Phantoms had 36 shots but didn’t start capitalizing until the third period, when they scored three late goals to make the game close.
The Jacks also had a lot of success with their penalty killing effort, an area that’s been unpredictable all season.
Muskegon was called for seven penalties, but the Jacks killed off six of Youngstown’s seven power plays without any damage.
“The penalty kill came up big,” Burgess said. “Youngstown is dynamic offensively and I was proud of the guys’ effort.”
The Jacks came out flying, getting a goal from Callow, his ninth of the season, just 35 seconds into the game.
The newcomer Henricks made it 2-0 at 15:43 of the first period when he grabbed a long rebound after a blocked shot and fired a high shot from the right circle that just caught the top part of the Youngstown net.
“He is pretty dynamic offensively,” Burgess said about Henricks. “I think he knew he was going to get opportunities and he wanted to get that first one out of the way. I was happy he was able to do that.”
Muskegon had three power plays early in the first period and could have had a bigger lead but failed to convert on those opportunities.
Callow finally scored a power play goal at 8:58 of the second period with a hard slap shot from the right circle to make the score 3-0.
Fredericks found the net at 17:20 of the second period, giving the Jacks a 4-0 lead, then Youngstown’s Martin Misiak broke the shutout with a goal at the 19:32 mark, making the score 4-1 heading into the third.
Gridin gave the Jacks a seemingly safe 5-1 lead with a goal just 1:27 into the final period, but Youngstown was not finished.
The Phantoms scored three unanswered goals down the stretch, by Kenta Isogai at 2:52, Andon Cerbone at 4:26 and Isogai again at 14:51 to pull the visitors within one.
The Lumberjacks were whistled for a penalty with 2:13 left in the game, and Youngstown pulled its goalie with 1:15 remaining, giving the Phantoms a two-skater advantage. But the Jacks managed to kill off the penalty and preserve the victory in a breathtaking finish.
Muskegon goalie Conor Callaghan got the win, stopping 32 of 36 shots.