BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — Calen Kiefiuk netted a pair of goals and Brady Smith, Sebastian Dirven and Alex Barber added scores, as the Central Illinois Flying Aces topped the Muskegon Lumberjacks, 5-4, on Saturday night at Grossinger Motors Arena.
Trailing 1-0 in the first period, the Flying Aces (13-33-5, 31 points) rattled off four straight goals in an 11:09 span between the first and second period en route to a win in the series finale with the Lumberjacks (26-21-2, 54 points).
Smith (University of Wisconsin) struck first for Central Illinois to tie the game at one just past the halfway mark of the opening period. Following a scrum in the slot, Smith jumped on a loose puck and slapped it past Muskegon goaltender Keegan Karki. Just 2:19 later, Kiefiuk (University of Michigan) netted his first goal of the night to give the Flying Aces the lead for good.
Central Illinois tacked on three more goals in the second period to open up a three-goal lead. Dirven (Cornell University) opened the scoring in the middle frame with his second score of the season. From the left circle, Dirven collected a rebound and fired it past Karki to make it a 3-1 game only 25 seconds in the period. Barber (Bowling Green State University) then found the back of the net on a zone rush to extend the Aces’ lead to 4-1. Following a quick response from Muskegon, Kiefiuk notched his second of the night to push the edge to 5-2.
Muskegon scored twice in the third period to pull within one, but Central Illinois held strong in the waning seconds to preserve the win.
Ryan Snowden (Ohio State University) made 36 saves to earn the victory for the Flying Aces.
Known as the Bloomington Thunder from 2014-17, the newly-rebranded Central Illinois Flying Aces are a member of the top junior hockey league in the United States, the United States Hockey League (USHL). The only Tier I junior hockey league in the country, the USHL has become renowned for developing the next stars of both Division I college hockey and the NHL. At the start of the 2017-18 season, there were 128 active USHL alumni on NHL rosters, with at least one USHL alumnus playing for each of the 31 teams. In total, there have been 253 USHL players who have gone onto NHL careers, including Patrick Sharp, David Backes, Johnny Gaudreau, and Joe Pavelski, among others. The players in the USHL range in age from 16-20 years old, 95 percent of whom will go on to play college hockey at the Division I level. For more information, visit flyingaceshockey.com or ushl.com or download the USHL Mobile App on the Apple App Store or on Google Play.