Muskegon Lumberjacks poised for strong USHL season


The Muskegon Lumberjacks pose at their recent press conference.
(Photo courtesy of Leo Valdez)

By David Hart
Local Sports Journal
MUSKEGON--The Muskegon Lumberjacks season ended last year in disappointment for the fans and the entire organization.

The Lumberjacks officially missed the postseason for the first time since the 2015-2016 season, posting a 27-32-3 record, which was good for 57 points and seventh place in the USHL’s Eastern Conference.

Muskegon is looking to turn things around this season and to ultimately hoist the Clark Cup for the first time in franchise history.

The Lumberjacks held their media day Sept. 15 to discuss upcoming renovations to the arena, the unveiling of their new jerseys and to discuss the season that will start on Sept. 23 in Pittsburgh against Omaha.

Muskegon also played three preseason games this season, Sept. 8-9 against the Youngstown Phantoms and Sept. 16 against the Chicago Steel.

The Lumberjacks regular-season home opener will be a special 10:30 a.m. faceoff against the Team USA Under-18 squad on Sept. 29 at Trinity Health Arena.
Muskegon will have about 13 players on the roster who saw some time in the USHL last season.

“I think that we are built well as a team, but I am sure there are 16 coaches in this league that feel the same way,” said Lumberjacks coach Parker Burgess, who is entering his first full season as head coach. “Our forward group is deep and strong, and I believe we can roll four solid lines.

“The defensive corps will have an identity this season with a mixture of younger guys and players who have experience in this league. We also have three tremendous goaltenders right now in camp.”

The Lumberjacks are expected to return their top three point-producers from last season in Cody Croal (18 goals, 31 assists), Ethan Whitcomb (24 goals, 24 assists) and Sacha Boisvert (17 goals, 28 assists).

Croal, who is committed to the University of North Dakota, played 62 games for the Lumberjacks last season, and led the team with 49 points and was second in penalty minutes.

“Last season wasn’t the best for us so this year we are looking to take it a little further and hopefully take home a Clark Cup,” Croal said. “We have a lot of great dudes, and we are pretty deep as a team. I am excited to see how far we will go this year.”

Whitcomb also returns for his third season as a member of the Lumberjacks after leading the squad with 24 goals. He has played 97 total games for Muskegon and this summer he was invited to the Ottawa Senators development camp.

“I struggled during my first season, but got comfortable after having a big summer,” Whitcomb said. “This is a great hockey town and I love playing for these fans and everyone on the staff is awesome. We get treated like kings.”

The Lumberjacks may also have a future National Hockey League first-round draft pick in Boisvert.

Boisvert was sixth in the USHL in points among rookies and will look to improve on his already impressive career.

“There is always pressure that you have to play with,” Boisvert said. “You want to play with pressure and feel that you need to make the big plays. It drives me to be better and work harder at everything.”

Muskegon also is returning a player in Ty Henricks, who spent 19 games last season for the Jacks after getting traded from Fargo last season. Henricks scored three goals and dished seven assists for a total of 10 points on the season. He was drafted this offseason by the New York Rangers in the sixth round of the 2023 NHL draft.

“It was a dream come true,” said Henricks about hearing his name called on draft night. “I was in the kitchen to grab some food and my dad screamed and jumped. He was excited and happy, and it was a great moment.

“I need to work on my foot speed this year. It will be great to play a full season here. I felt comfortable about two weeks after getting traded here.”


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