By Dave Hart
MUSKEGON- The Muskegon Lumberjacks’ newest acquisition made a great first impression in his first contest with the squad on Friday night.
Portz helped lead the Lumberjacks on an offensive explosion that led to a 9-4 pounding over Team USA’s Under-17 squad at Muskegon’s Mercy Health Arena.
The Lumberjacks improved to 14-7-1 on the season, good for 29 points and second place in the USHL’s Eastern Conference. Muskegon, which has won its last four home games, will rematch with the Under-17 squad on Saturday night.
“You never know what you are going to get in those trades,” said Lumberjacks coach Mike Hamilton. “At the end of the day we knew we were getting a player that was defensively responsible and averaged almost a point per game last year. A four-point night is special.”
Portz showed great chemistry with his new linemates – captain Dylan Wendt, who had a goal and an assist, and Danil Gushchin, who added two assists.
“It’s been awesome so far,” said Portz. “The guys have been really good with bringing me in and making me feel a part of the team. It feels good and I have to give credit to the guys making the transition easy.”
Jack Williams also had a strong outing with two goals and an assist, while Quinn Hutson and Ben Strinden chipped in with two assists apiece. Both Bradley Marek and John Larkin contributed with a goal and an assist.
Portz opened the scoring with goals at the 4:58 and 9:20 marks of the first period to give Muskegon a 2-0 advantage.
Team USA quickly responded with three goals in a span of a minute and 12 seconds. Rutger McGroarty (10:27), Cutter Gauthier (11:04) and Frank Nazar III (11:39) gave Team USA a 3-2 lead.
The Lumberjacks pulled starting goalie Nick Reid and brought Jan Skorpikp, the usual starter, into the contest.
“We had a three- or four-minute span where we got away from the game plan,” Hamilton said. “It wasn’t Reid’s fault by any means, but you’re looking for a save every once and awhile. It wasn’t anything he (Reid) did, we were just looking for a spark and it worked out.”
Muskegon tied the game 3-3 with a power play goal from Williams 19:11 into the opening period.
The Lumberjacks continued their offensive onslaught in the second period, outscoring Team USA by a 4-0 margin. Wendt (1:25), Owen Mehlenbacher (5:57), Williams (13:57) and Frankie Carogioiello (15:39) each connected with goals to give Muskegon a 7-3 lead heading into the third period.
The Lumberjacks increased their advantage to 9-3 with goals from John Larkin and Marek, 8:14 and 13:48 into the third period, respectively.
Team USA closed out the scoring with a tally by Devin Kaplan at the 16:11 mark of the third period.
The Lumberjacks outshot Team USA by a 40-18 margin. Skorpik stopped 12 of 13 shots in net for Muskegon.