By: Alec Dopp
With less than two minutes remaining in regulation, it seemed the Green Bay Gamblers and Muskegon Lumberjacks were destined to play their third overtime match in as many games this season.
Capturing the puck off a Muskegon turnover, the Gamblers’ first-year forward Evan Tironese plowed through several Lumberjack defenders en route to the game’s go-ahead slap-shot goal with 1:11 remaining in the game’s final period. The score was the game’s first since midway through the opening period.
“We got the puck on our own half and I had a nice little give-and-go play with Kevin Irwin,” Tironese said after the game. “I just went down there and had a fake slap shot and he bit pretty hard, so I was able to slide it in.”
The British Columbia native’s score was promptly followed by two more, one from Ryan Siroky and another from Sebastian Weberg, giving Green Bay the 4-1 victory over Muskegon.
With the win, the Gamblers ran their record to 9-5-4 through 18 regular season games and elevated their 2013-2014 point total to 22 — pulling the club within two points of Muskegon for the fourth spot ‘in the USHL’s Eastern Conference.
“They’re a very tough opponent, especially for us,” head coach Derek Lalonde said. “They’re a very passive team. They take away the middle of the ice and they stack their blue line. I give our guys a ton of credit — we battled through adversity all night.”
And battle adversity Green Bay did.
Following Nick Schmaltz’s game-opening goal 41 seconds into the contest, the Gamblers went a span of nearly 50 scoreless minutes before Tironese’s score late in the contest. Much of that time was spent killing Lumberjack power plays, which hampered Green Bay’s ability to attack offensively.
“We spent most of the second period killing,” Lalonde said, “and that drains a lot of our guys.”
It didn’t help that Green Bay had one of its goals reversed, either.
“Missed goals are really hard to bounce back from. To the ref’s credit, he thought the goalie squeezed it originally, and he said it should have been a goal. I don’t mind it, but that’s tough for a team to fight through.”
But the Gamblers were able to stymie Muskegon’s offense long enough in penalty kills midway through the game. Jared Rutledge tallied nine of his 26 total saves during the crucial second period in which Green Bay had been on a five-minute penalty kill for an infraction on R.J. Gicewicz.
“What I really like about that particular penalty kill is we pretty much used everyone,” Lalonde said. “We knew that was going to be an important penalty kill, and we used 10 guys knowing we needed to have some energy after that. It was a great group-effort on killing that penalty.”
While the postseason remains a ways off, Green Bay and Muskegon have jockeyed for positioning in the Eastern Conference throughout the season and Lalonde believes a victory such as this was crucial — especially following an 0-2-1 road trip.
“We have four games in hand and now we’re only trailing (Muskegon) by two points,” Lalonde said. “It’s a little early to start talking about playoff positioning, but you can see how the league is stacking up. There’s going to be seven really good teams battling for four spots, so you have to win your division games, especially at home, and this was a huge win for us.”
The Redline Report with Derek Lalonde is set for tomorrow night beginning at 7:00 PM at Anduzzi’s Sports Club. Coach Lalonde and the “Voice” of Gamblers hockey Jason Habeck will discuss the team’s month and break down video of the key plays. Joining Jason and Derek are guest defenseman Jordan Gross and forward Matt Weis.
While at Anduzzi’s, fans can enjoy $2.50 domestic bottles .30 cent wings and .40 cent boneless wings. Anduzzi’s is located in the shadow of the Resch Center on Holmgren Way.
The Green Bay Gamblers (8-5-4) take on the Muskegon Lumberjacks (10-7-4) Wednesday night at the Resch Center. Be there for Bud Night, Turkey Bowling Contest, and Food for Neighbors presented by Festival Foods and the Salvation Army. Faceoff is set for 7:05 PM.
Head-to-Head vs. Muskegon:This is the third of six games between the two Eastern Conference teams. The first two games, both at the Resch Center, went to shootouts with each team winning one game. Green Bay won the most recent game 4-3 in a shootout with Kevin Irwin scoring two goals and Nick Schmaltz getting the shootout winner. Muskegon is currently in fourth place in the Eastern Conference while the Gamblers sit in fifth. Muskegon has played four more games.
Home Cooking: The Gamblers have an impressive home record of 6-0-1 with their only loss coming to Muskegon in a shootout in the first game of the season. Green Bay is averaging 2,889 fans per game which is fourth in the USHL.
Player to Watch: The captain of the Gamblers Ryan Lough currently sits in third on the team in scoring with four goals and seven assists with a -2 rating. Lough has played in 17 games this season and sees ice time in all aspects of the game including 5-on-5, penalty kill and power play.
Goaltending: Jared Rutledge has started in eight straight games and has played in 14 of 17 games this season. Rutledge has an 8-4-2 record with 2.90 goals against average and 90.5 save percentage.
Come Support the Gamblers: Tickets start at just $9 day before game and are $10 day of game. For group ticket rates contact Jessica French at 405-1265. Fans are asked to bring non-perishable food items to drop off in the Resch Center lobby to benefit families in need in Northeast Wisconsin.
Stay Connected: Like the Gamblers Facebook page (Gamblers Hockey), follow us on Twitter @GamblersHockey, and visit our website gamblershockey.com.
The Sioux City Musketeers defeated the Green Bay Gamblers 3-2 in overtime on Friday night in Sioux City, Iowa. With the loss the Gamblers fall to 8-5-4 on the season.
Scoring for the Gamblers were forwards Gavin Stoick and Nick Schmaltz.
Jared Rutledge suffers the loss between the pipes for the Gamblers stopping 26 of 29 shots on goal. With the loss, Rutledge falls to 8-4-2 on the season.
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