Powered by three third-period goals, the Indiana Ice won their sixth straight game Wednesday, beating the Muskegon Lumberjacks 5-1 at the Pepsi Coliseum.
With the victory, the Ice clinch no worse than third place in the USHL's East Division. Should the Ice finish third, they will have home ice in the best-of-three first-round series. Should they climb into one of the top two spots, they'll receive a first-round bye in the USHL Playoffs.
Five different players scored for the Ice, who jumped on the Lumberjacks early -- netting the game's first eight shots -- and kept coming at the visitors. David Johnstone gave the Ice a 1-0 lead just 4:19 in, whistling a shot from the point past Muskegon's Paul Berrafoto -- who made several dandy saves on the evening to keep the game close for much of the night. A tip-in by Brian Ferlin finished off a strong rush started by defenseman Alexander Kuqali to make it a 2-0 game just 101 seconds into the second period.
Muskegon added a PPG on a laser from Isaac Kohls from the point, but the Ice scored thrice in the third, with Cody Bradley netting a key insurance goal just 23 seconds in on the initial rush of the period. Nick Mattson finished off a 4-on-2 rush with a goal from the high slot and Will Aide added a clincher a couple of minutes later to give the Ice a three-goal period and the 5-1 victory.
The Ice spread the scoring out, as only one player -- Daniil Tarasov -- netted two points on the evening, as he assisted on Ferlin and Mattson's tallies. Alex Barron was a plus-3.
Johnstone's goal was his 18th of the year. Two more would give the Ice five 20-goal scorers. Ferlin added his 24th. Bradley hit double-digits with 10, while Mattson & Aide both scored #6 on the year.
Casey DeSmith had 21 saves for his 21st victory in goal.
1: Cody Bradley (Ice). Key goal to break game open early in third, +1.
2: Daniil Tarasov (Ice). 2 assists, 5 shots, +2
3. Alex Barron (Ice). 1 assist, +3
The Ice are now 34-16-4, and remain in third place. They're six points behind division leader Green Bay with six games left for both teams. Cedar Rapids is five points ahead of the Ice, but has two games in hand. The Ice have outscored teams 32-6 in this current six-game win streak. The Ice lead the season series against Muskegon 5-1 (both teams have one OTL) with one game remaining in the L.C. Walker Arena in Michigan. Back-to-back home games against the Des Moines Buccaneers Friday & Saturday will close out the home portion of the season. Both games face off at 7:05 p.m. at the Pepsi Coliseum. Des Moines (24-21-6) is currently tied with Sioux City for the last playoff spot in the West with 54 points. The Ice then close out the year with four road games over the last two weekends.