By Dave Hart
MUSKEGON – The Muskegon Lumberjacks’ goaltending play has not always been the sharpest this season.
Inconsistency between the pipes has been a challenge for the Jacks, who usually overcome the problem by being one of the top-scoring teams in the league.
But on Thursday goaltender Nathan Reid stopped 26 of 28 shots to help the Lumberjacks prevail over Youngstown to end a five-game winless streak.
On Friday Reid duplicated that performance, allowing just one goal on 33 shots to propel Muskegon to a 3-1 win over the Youngstown Phantoms at Mercy Health Arena.
Muskegon, which has won two in a row, is now 18-11-3 on the season, good for 39 points and second place in the USHL’s Eastern Conference. The Lumberjacks are currently five points behind first place Chicago and five ahead of third place Green Bay.
Muskegon will close out the week with a home game on Saturday against the Team USA Under-17 squad. Faceoff is slated for 7:10 p.m.
“Reider (Reid) was good,” said Lumberjacks Coach Mike Hamilton. “They had a flurry obviously at the end, and he made a couple of key saves for us.
“It was a tightly-contested game with very little ice out there, and they were committed to playing defense and keeping the game in front of them. It was good to see us dig deep and get a gritty win.”
Reid, who came to the team in January and is generally the backup goalie, said the longer he is with the team, the more confident he feels.
“I think we played well defensively as a team,” said Reid, who is taking online classes at Yale University while playing for Muskegon. “I thought we needed a bounce back weekend, and I think we got it. The more games I have played the more comfortable I get.”
Muskegon’s penalty kill was on point, with the Lumberjacks keeping the Phantoms from scoring in three power play opportunities.
“Penalty kill has been good for a long time,” Hamilton said. “Hopefully we can keep that going. It is awesome to see them block some shots.”
The Phantoms opened the scoring with a goal by Jack Larrigan 13:30 into the first period, just 22 seconds after the Lumberjacks killed off Youngstown’s first power play.
Youngstown led 1-0 after the first period despite getting outshot by the Lumberjacks by a 15-10 margin.
The Lumberjacks tied the game 1-1 at the 6:58 mark of the second period when the puck trickled in the goal on a wrist shot in front of the net by Tanner Kelly.
The game was tied 1-1 heading into the final period, with the Lumberjacks holding a 26-20 advantage in shots.
Muskegon took its first lead of the night 1:22 into the third period when Cristophe Tellier, skating toward the net, deflected a shot from teammate Dylan and into the goal.
The Phantoms had two chances to tie the contest with late power plays, beginning at the 7:47 and 13:42 marks of the third period, respectively. But Muskegon managed to keep the puck out of the net with its stingy penalty kill unit.
Youngstown put a lot of pressure on Reid in the final period, but he turned away everything the visitors could throw at him.
The Lumberjacks closed out the scoring as time expired on an empty net tally by Jack Williams. It was the second straight night that Williams scored an empty-netter as the clock ticked down to zero.
Both teams registered 33 shots on goal.