MUSKEGON – Penalties have been a big problem for the Muskegon Lumberjacks all season, but the last one they received on Friday really hurt.

The Jacks had just finished rallying from a 3-1 deficit in the third period and sent the game to overtime tied 3-3.

But the momentum was lost when Muskegon was called for a hooking penalty with 3:06 left in OT, giving the visiting Dubuque Fighting Saints a 4-on-3 skater advantage at a very opportune time.

Dubuque’s Ryan St. Louis cashed in with the winning goal just 15 seconds later, handing the Jacks a painful 4-3 loss at Trinity Health Arena.

The loss was Muskegon’s fourth in a row. The Jacks are now 20-24-3 on the season.

The Jacks gained one point in the standings for the overtime loss, but that was spoiled across the lake in the Windy City, where Cedar Rapids, the team Muskegon is chasing for the sixth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, upset the first-place Chicago Steel 3-1.

Lumberjacks goalie Raythan Robbins. Photo/Tonya Pardon

Cedar Rapids is now 10 points ahead of the Jacks in the standings with 15 games left in the regular season.

The Lumberjacks will host Dubuque again on Saturday night.

Despite the tough loss, Lumberjacks Coach Parker Burgess was pleased with the way his team battled back, particularly after scoring only one goal in each of their games last weekend.

“It’s disappointing not to get the two points (in the standings), but I think it was a step in the right direction,” Burgess said. “We were in that position several times in recent weeks and weren’t able to come back. We were able to do that tonight and get a point, and we gave ourselves a chance to win in overtime, but it just wasn’t to be.”

The loss spoiled a great performance by Lumberjacks goalie Raythan Robbins, who stopped 32 of 36 shots and made some spectacular saves, particularly in the second period when Muskegon was outshot 12-4 and could have fallen two or three goals behind.

Thanks to Robbins, Dubuque only led 2-1 after two periods, and the Jacks were able to rally in the third and force overtime.

Muskegon’s Ty Henricks. Photo/Tonya Pardon

“He’s been really consistently good,” Burgess said about Robbins. “He keeps it to three or less goals pretty much every game. Special teams were obviously the difference tonight, but he gave us a chance to win. He was exceptional.”

Muskegon opened the scoring at 4:35 of the first period when newcomer Joe Connor, playing his first game, popped in a loose puck from close range. Assists went to Luke Boss and Nathan McBrayer.

Dubuque tied the score with a second left in the first period when Jake Sondreal scored on a power play.

The goal was disallowed at first, presumably because Muskegon had been called for a second penalty and touched the puck just before the it went in the net, which should have automatically stopped play.

But the refs conferred and finally allowed the goal and the score was tied 1-1 after one.

Dubuque’s Max Burkholder scored the only goal of the second period at the 1:39 mark, and the Fighting Saints led 2-1 headed into the third.

The visitors thought they got some breathing room at 2:28 of the third period when Max Monter found the net and put Dubuque up 3-1.

But the Jacks kept grinding and found their way back into the game, getting goals from Owen Keefe at the 5:33 mark and Ty Henrick just 10 seconds later to tie the score at 3-3.

Muskegon had a great opportunity to win in regulation, getting two power play opportunities, including a 5-on-3 chance for 34 seconds, but failed to cash in.

The Lumberjacks were 0-for-6 on the power play in the game. Dubuque scored on 3 of 6 chances.