By Dave Hart
MUSKEGON- The Muskegon Lumberjacks had reason to give up on Saturday after losing a late lead 24-hours ago.
The Lumberjacks, who allowed two late goals on Friday night to Chicago, found themselves in a similar situation against the Steel on Saturday.
For the second game in a row, Muskegon let in a tie-breaking goal with just under three minutes remaining in regulation.
But the Lumberjacks never gave up the fight, drawing a late penalty in regulation and tying the game with 42 seconds left in the third on a power play goal from Bradley Marek.
Marek completed the comeback in the extra session with a breakaway game-winning goal with 33.1 seconds left in overtime to lift the Lumberjacks to a 5-4 win over the Chicago Steel at Mercy Health Arena.
Muskegon is now 7-4-1 on the season, good for 15 points and third place in the USHL’s Eastern Conference.
The Lumberjacks will remain at home where they will host last place Dubuque on December 29 and 30. Both games are slated to start at 7:10 p.m.
“We keep talking about just getting better,” said Lumberjacks coach Mike Hamilton. “We learned a little something from last night I think, and we stayed with the game. Now we are 2-1 against these guys and although we lost last night, we learned that we can match up with them.”
The Lumberjacks opened the scoring 8:14 into the opening period with a goal off a rebound by Cristophe Tellier.
Chicago tied the game 1-1 at the 16:37 mark of the first period with a goal from Sean Farrell.
The contest was deadlocked at 1-1 heading into the first intermission.
The Steel took a 2-1 lead, scoring 8:29 into the second period on a goal by Joe Miller.
Muskegon captain Dylan Wendt tied the game 2-2, scoring on a reflection from a shot at the blue line by defenseman Davis Pennington at the 16:47 mark of the second stanza.
But Chicago regained its lead 18:03 into the middle period on a goal from Erik Middendorf to give the Steel a 3-2 advantage heading into the final period.
The Lumberjacks tied the game 3-3 at the 3:28 mark of the third period on Thomas Sinclair’s first goal of the season.
The Steel broke the tie 17:09 into the third stanza with a tally from Adam Robbins and it was looking like another disappointing loss for the Lumberjacks.
But Muskegon was handed an opportunity to score the equalizer late in the game with a power play with less than two minutes remaining.
The Lumberjacks, while pulling their goalie, scored with a two-man advantage with 42 seconds left in regulation to force overtime. Muskegon’s newcomer Marek, who played in just his third game with the Jacks, notched the tying goal.
Marek then scored the game-winner with 33 seconds left in overtime on a breakaway to give the Lumberjacks their first home win of the season.
“All of the guys played great tonight,” said Marek about his new teammates. “It was a great team win and I am not used to being in the position to score the game-winner. But it was fun, and it was good to be with the boys on my first weekend here. The guys and coaching staff are great.”
Chicago outshot the Lumberjacks by a 26-23 margin.
Muskegon’s goaltender Jan Skorpik stopped 22 of Chicago’s 26 shots. Pennington chipped in with three assists while Ben Strinden, Cameron Berg and Danil Gushchin each had one.