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Season On Ice

Metro Downs Xpress, 4-2, To Advance

For the second straight game, the Southern Tier Xpress blew a lead against the top team in the North American Tier III Hockey League.

Saturday night, it spelled the end of their season.

Fourth-seeded Southern Tier relinquished one-goal leads in both the first and second periods, and the Metro Jets took over in the third period en route to a 4-2 victory in Game 2 of their best-of-three East Division semifinal playoff series.

“That’s a team that’s been through the playoff rigors and battles a little bit more than we have,”Southern Tier head coach Lou Santini said. “Maybe that showed through a little bit.”

The sweep sends the top-seeded Jets into next weekend’s East Division final against the second-seeded Pittsburgh Vengeance, who swept their own semifinal series against the third-seeded Lansing Wolves.

Joey Gerace of the Southern Tier Xpress, center, is congratulated by his teammates after scoring a goal during Game 2 of the North American Tier III Hockey League East Division semifinal series against the Metro Jets on Saturday night. P-J photo by Scott Reagle

“We never look ahead past the next game,” Metro head coach Justin Quenneville said. “Our concern isn’t even the national championship, it’s just winning the next game.”

Much like Thursday night’s Game 1 changed on a Connor Inger penalty shot, Saturday night’s game changed on a play from the Jets star early in the third period. Inger circled around the Xpress zone with the puck on his backhand, losing his defender in the process. The 40-goal scorer then lost control as he neared the Southern Tier crease, but the puck found the stick of teammate Matt Schaumburger, who went backhand to forehand to beat Xpress goaltender Ryan Pascarella and give Metro a 3-2 lead just 53 seconds into the final 20 minutes.

“He’s been money for us all year. There were some chances tonight for him to break it open, but he just wasn’t able to get it through,” Quenneville said of Inger. “That was a clutch play he made to get that game-winner for us.”

Less than two minutes later, the Jets put the game away. Southern Tier’s defense attempted to move the puck up the wall where forward Marks Mezsargs took possession just inside his own blue line. He was unable to clear the zone and Devlin Macaulay took control. The Jets defenseman’s wrister found its way through traffic in front of the net and past Pascarella for a 4-2 Metro lead with 17:31 remaining in the game.

“I think what he was trying to do was chip it off the glass. Instead of getting off the glass it got a bad bounce,” Santini said of Mezsargs. “Their guy was waiting right there for it. It’s a tough situation.”

Southern Tier goalie Ryan Pascarella turns away a shot. P-J photo by Scott Reagle

The Jets then shut down the Xpress through the neutral zone, allowing just five shots in the third period while holding a 59-20 shot advantage in the game.

“It’s so important against this team to get pucks in deep,” Santini said. “When we did get pucks in deep we did a good job. Making a couple of passes and getting it in deep was the toughest thing.”

Much like it did Thursday night, Southern Tier took an early lead in the game and put Metro on its heels. Midway through the first period, Stuart Pearson skated off the wall toward the middle of the Jets defensive zone and fired a backhand shot on net that found its way off the goal post behind goaltender Brian Tallieu. Michael Lamison was there and tapped the rebound in for a 1-0 lead with 9:24 left in the frame.

Xpress forward Stuart Pearson is knocked into Metro Jets goalie Brian Tallieu resulting in a penalty shot. P-J photo by Scott Reagle

The short-handed Xpress nearly made it 2-0 early in the second period. With Hunter Kepple in the penalty box, Southern Tier’s Tristan Mock went in on a breakaway from the far blue line with 15:24 left in the period, but was foiled by Tallieu.

“We tell our guys ‘Don’t worry about your numbers, just focus on the stop you need to make for your team.’ Our philosophy here is to just beat the other goalie,” Quenneville said. “I don’t care if he’s getting 40 shots and you are only getting 16. If you have to stop a breakaway that’s your time to shine.”

Southern Tier’s Brian Grant, left, attempts a shot on Metro Jets goalie Brian Tallieu during Game 2 of the North American Tier III Hockey League East Division semifinal game Saturday night. P-J photo by Scott Reagle

Just 21 seconds later, the Jets tied the game on the power play as Reggie Millette took a pass from Robby Flannery on the right wing and shot a wrist shot through an Xpress defender that beat Pascarella under his right armpit to tie the game at 1-1.

Southern Tier took the lead back less than three minutes later as Lamison took the puck behind the net and threw it out front where Joey Gerace dug it out of his feet and slid it past Tallieu to go up 2-1.

That didn’t last long as Anthony Cinato won the ensuing faceoff back to Kyle Gierman, who passed up to Jeremy Schwartz on the left wing. Schwartz skated into the Xpress zone, cut to the middle and beat Pascarella with a wrist shot high to the blocker side that glanced in off the crossbar just eight seconds after Gerace’s goal.

“That was a nice way to respond,” Quenneville said. “It’s not very often that you see that, but it was a heckuva of a job by our guys to be clutch in the moment.”

Southern Tier’s Brian Grant, left, attempts a shot on Metro Jets goalie Brian Tallieu during Game 2 of the North American Tier III Hockey League East Division semifinal game Saturday night. P-J photo by Scott Reagle

The Jets continued to carry the play throughout the second period and were rewarded for it with their two-goal third period that will now give them a chance to repeat as East Division playoff champs.

Southern Tier goes into the offseason riding the momentum of a strong second half of the season that saw them win nine of their final 12 games. Just four Xpress players will be too old for junior eligibility next season.

“I’m really proud of the guys. We really came on in the second half of the season,” Santini said. “I think we planted some seeds for progress and the future of the program.  I think everything is getting ready for a good future ahead of us.”

Original article by Matt Spielman, The Post-Journal.

Game 2 On Tap Tonight

Xpress Must Win At Metro To Extend Best-Of-3 East Division Playoff Series

The players and coaching staff of the Southern Tier Xpress are no strangers to quick turnarounds, and they are going to need to use that experience to full effect if they want to even their best-of-three NA3HL East Division semifinal series with Metro and advance past the first round of the postseason.

Picking up a come-from-behind 5-3 win at Northwest Arena on Thursday night in Game 1, the Jets now take their crucial one-game advantage back to home ice at Fraser Hockeyland in Michigan for tonight’s 7:30 p.m. start.

The five-hour journey westward is one that the Xpress have come to know well.

“(We’ll) get a good meal in them tonight, get a good night’s rest and then be ready to go,” said Southern Tier coach Lou Santini after a brief skate with his team on Friday night in Jamestown. “I think the guys are determined, but they are loose in (the locker room). They know what they have to do, they’re well prepared. We’ve played in their building before so we have a good sense of the trip and what we need to do out there. I think I got a good feeling that they are confident going into the Fraser ice arena to play the next game.”

Santini’s team will now need to claim back-to-back games this weekend, a feat they have accomplished six times already this season, in order to upset the East Division champions.

When Southern Tier has been able to win games in quick succession in the face of fatigue, it has been because of the process that Santini was working during Friday’s practice.

“I just wanted to get a quick practice in, just touch the puck a little bit, move the puck, get some shots off,” said Santini. “I want to keep them fresh, but there were a couple of things that I wanted to work on with our rush chances, executing a few more plays down low. So we worked on a few of those things in practice, but most of it was trying to keep us in a good rhythm, a good flow out there, keep the tempo up and keep the puck moving.”

One danger that can crop up when it comes to the schedule of home game, practice and then long road-trip is that players start to think too much about what did or did not happen in the last game.

As Santini ran his team through drills on Friday night, the Xpress coach wanted to make sure that there was not a heavy burden on analytics and above-the-ears work.

“Not trying to do too much information overload, but just kind of keep everything working together there, so that they are moving the puck and they’ve got a good feel for their skills and their game out there.”

When the Xpress looked their best on Thursday night, which included an eight-minute stretch in the second period when Southern Tier carried a 3-1 lead, it was when the team played at its most relaxed.

Staying calm in the face of pressure will be one way that Santini’s team can look even the series tonight.

Original article by Jay Young, The Post-Journal.

Metro Flexes Its Muscle

Jets Score Three Times In Third Period To Take Game 1

The opportunities. The effort. The atmosphere.

At times all the correct pieces seemed to be in place for Southern Tier on Thursday evening inside Northwest Arena, but a three-goal run by Metro was enough to give the Jets a 5-3 win and the first two points of their East Division North American Tier III Hockey League semifinal series.

The Xpress looked at a 1-0 lead in the first period after an opening goal by Nick Wilcox and would hold a 3-1 margin after a pair of tallies in the second, but the persistent Jets were never fazed by the deficits and will now head home with a game in hand as they prepare for the second matchup in a best-of-three series, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Saturday at Fraser Hockeyland.

“We stick to the process. We create our own bounces,” Metro head coach Justin Quenneville said following the win. “One thing we did a lot better into he third was we stuck to the game plan. We didn’t change our philosophy.”

After struggling to create offensive chances during the opening period, Quenneville’s team found itself on the wrong side of a penalty call early in the second as Kyle Gierman was booked for holding.

Following a pair of near misses with the man-advantage in the opening 20 minutes of play, it was Joey Gerace who was able to take advantage of Gierman’s penalty as he was able to tip a Nic Allen shot from the point past goaltender Andrew Kormos to make it 2-1 Southern Tier.

“It felt good to get that power-play goal,” Gerace said. “When you look at our power-play percentages throughout the year, (Metro is) toward the top and we are toward the bottom. The rest of the weekend we really need to focus on staying out of the box and playing 5-on-5.”

While the Xpress were able to pick up their first goal of the night thanks to a fortunate bounce, with Wilcox throwing a puck on the Metro net that took a hop and tumbled past Kormos in the first period, both of the Southern Tier goals that resulted in a 3-1 lead came following strong work in the offensive zone.

Five minutes after Gerace granted his team another lead, Marks Mezsargs was able to make it 3-1 after a Jets defenseman suffered a broken stick at his blue line, granting the Xpress a two-on-one advantage.

Electing to fire a shot on net, Mezsargs was able to follow his own rebound and shovel home the extra chance as Kormos scrambled back into position.

The native of Riga, Latvia would nearly notch his second of the postseason midway through the third period on a drive that was turned away by the Metro netminder.

Southern Tier’s Michael Keller attempts to split two Metro defenders during Game 1 of their NA3HL East Division playoff series Thursday at Northwest Arena. P-J photo by Chad Ecklof

“He did very well,” Southern Tier coach Lou Santini said of his southpaw forward“We’ve talked about him going a little bit north-south with his game. We talked about that in between the first and second period and I thought he did a good job of that and he was able to score his goal because of that, driving to the net and getting to the front of the net. That’s where you are going to score goals.”

Shortly after taking their 3-1 lead, the Xpress were forced onto the penalty kill despite goaltender Ryan Pascarella, who finished with 19 saves, taking a bump from a Metro forward and losing his helmet.

Southern Tier stood firm over the next two minutes while down a man, turning a way a great opportunity by Trevor Momot, but the Xpress would be forced back on the defensive after Jacob Zwieg was booked four minutes for a high sticking penalty.

Anthony Cinato made the most of that opportunity, burying home a cross-ice one timer pass from George Hansen that Pascarella had no chance of stopping.

The Xpress began the third period a man down as well after John Ogeka took a trip to the box, but Southern Tier was able to kill off that penalty as well and even feed the defenseman on his way back to the ice for a breakaway opportunity that was turned away by the blocker of Kormos.

Things would come back to even at 3-3 when Conner Inger was awarded a penalty shot at 6:07 of the third. Finishing with 93 points in 45 regular-season games, Inger was not one to waste opportunities. He was able to finish off the free rush on Pascarella with a backhand that trickled under the pad of the Southern Tier netminder.

“When you are in those situations, the referee calls a penalty shot, it’s difficult,” Santini said. “That’s where your mental toughness comes in. I told them to keep fighting and keep battling through it. I told them to keep fighting. I thought we still had a good jump. I though that was important, that we wanted to keep using our game plan and getting in on them.”

With Inger pulling things back to even, Metro was able to maintain its momentum in the following minutes as Brandon Graham was able to take advantage of a shot by Kristian Alafriz that was blocked, finishing off an open-net chance.

Southern Tier’s chances at a comeback would fade after a miscommunication in the defensive zone gave Rhett Limback a chance to curl around Pascarella for a glove-side finish and the 5-3 final.

Looking back to the first period of the evening, Southern Tier had chances to open up an even bigger lead as Gerace fed a blind pass across to Michael Lamison that was turned away by a desperate save by Kormos, one of his 15 on the night.

Shortly after that chance Mickenzie Restle fed a cross-ice pass to Lamison for another look on the power play, but that shot just narrowly missed the mark.

“I talked to the guys about that and the important thing that you have to remember with playoffs, everything becomes more of a situation where the magnitude of each moment occurs,” Santini said. “We had those two chances, we didn’t get the chances to finish. That’s the way that playoffs are, that’s how tough it is. Hey you get chances and you don’t finish them and it can come back to haunt you and unfortunately it did tonight.”

Metro 1 1 3–5

Southern Tier 1 2 0–3

First Period–1, Southern Tier, Wilcox 1, 3:24. 2, Metro, Schwartz 1 (Davis, Cinato), 19:13. Penalties–Schaumburger, MET, Minor (roughing), 3:46, Allen, ST, Minor (roughing), 3:46, Stawinksi, MET, Minor (tripping), 4:58, Flannery, MET, Minor (slashing), 8:37.

Second Period–3, Southern Tier, Gerace 1 (Allen), 2:20 (pp). 4, Southern Tier, Mezsargs 1, 7:13. 5, Metro, Cinato 1 (Hansen), 15:43 (pp). Penalties–Gierman, MET, Minor (holding), 1:55, Muecke, ST, Minor (too many men), 11:01, Zwieg, ST, Double Minor (high sticking), 13:26, Hansen, MET, Minor (slashing), 13:37, Inger, MET, Minor (roughing), 19:00, Grant, ST, Minor (roughing), 19:00.

Third Period–6, Metro, Inger 1, 6:07 (ps). 7, Metro, Graham 1 (Alafriz), 7:56. 8. 8–Metro, Limback 1 (Davis),15:21. Penalties–Ogeka, ST, Minor (tripping), 1:01, Zwieg, ST, Minor (interference), 10:51, Gierman, MET, Minor (slashing), 18:01.

Shots on Goal–Metro 6 11 7–24. Southern Tier 7 6 5–18.

Power-play opportunities–Metro 1 of 5, Southern Tier 1 of 5.

Goalies–Metro, Kormos (18 shots, 15 saves). Southern Tier, Pascarella (24 shots, 19 saves).

A–589. T–2:18.

Referee–Sam Heidemann. Linesmen–Jake Muzik, Nathan Schmidt.

Original article by Jay Young, The Post-Journal.

Xpress Still Have Chance To Come Back In Best-Of-Three Series

Six times this season, the Southern Tier Xpress won two games during the same weekend.

They’ll have to make it seven if they want their season to continue past Sunday.

Leading 3-2 entering the third period Thursday night, the Xpress gave up three goals to the league-leading Metro Jets to fall 5-3 in Game 1 of their best-of-three NA3HL East Division semifinal.

“It was a heartbreaker for sure. For everyone except a couple guys in our locker room, it’s the first time we’ve played in a playoff game,” third-year Xpress player Joey Gerace said. “It’s kind of tough some times to come through this. We are constantly learning and have to fight through.”

Now with their collective backs against the wall, the Xpress will have to sweep the Jets on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon in Fraser, Michigan to keep their season alive.

“Saturday morning we’re heading out there to Fraser and we have to bring it to them. We’re going to go out there and give it our all. Pedal to the metal,” Southern Tier defenseman Jacob Zwieg said. “We all had our heads held high and we were ready. We were full of steam and wanted to take these guys more than anything tonight.”

The previous six times Southern Tier won multiple games during a single weekend, it was never against a team the same caliber of Metro.

“We can’t get down, especially in the playoffs. It’s the biggest time of the year. Everybody’s got to come ready to play,” forward Tristan Mock said. ” You have to play a 60-minute game. You can’t give 40, you can’t give 20. You’ve got to give it all.”

The Xpress’ most impressive weekend came Feb. 16 and Feb. 18 when they snapped a Jets’ 17-game winning streak Friday night before beating second-place Pittsburgh on Sunday afternoon.

“We try to keep our heads up. We still have two more games against them because it’s a series. It hurt tonight to lose, especially being up with a lead,” Zwieg said. “Coming into the third period I thought we were kind of flat, but the first two periods were good. We came out flying and put them on their heels. We were right in there in their face and we were putting pucks into the net. It kind of slumped off the hill there at the end.”

Metro’s Connor Inger gets ready to put a move on Southern Tier goaltender Ryan Pascarella during a third-period penalty shot in Thursday’s NA3HL East Division semifinal Game 1 at Northwest Arena. P-J photo by Chad Ecklof

Southern Tier was the better team for the opening 10 minutes Thursday night, but despite holding a one-goal lead for close to 31 minutes and even a two-goal lead for over eight minutes, the Xpress seemed to struggle to maintain pressure and puck possession in the Metro zone for much of the night.

“Our first goal of the game was a fluke, it was a bounce. That’s something we take as a blessing, but those things happen,” Gerace said. “We played them hard all the way through. They never stopped battling and when we did for just a minute, that’s when they came back into the game.”

While the Jets have never really been forced to play with desperation throughout the season as their 40-6-1 record would indicate, they seemed to adjust fine to the demands of playoff-intensity hockey.

“One thing people overlook a lot is they see our record, but they don’t see how we won games. We’ve won a lot of tight games, hard games, third-period games,” Metro head coach Justin Quenneville said. “That’s a tribute to our coaching staff and players committing to everything all year.”

Southern Tier, on the other hand, has been playing with desperation for much of the final month of the season, having to go 9-3-0 in its final 12 games, just to clinch a spot in the postseason on the final day of the league calendar.

“We obviously would’ve liked to take this one at home. It’s always easier to win in your own barn,”Gerace said. “Going out to Detroit, we know exactly what we have to do. If we pay the price and execute the plays, I think we can come out successful.”

With the pressure squarely on the shoulders of the top seed, opening the playoffs on the road, the Xpress now become the team in need of a win just to get to a Game 3 on Sunday in suburban Detroit.

“The boys are dialed in and focused. We want it so bad,” Mock said. “We’ve put in all the work and fought our way into the playoffs. We deserve this and we want this. It’s ours.”

Original article by Matt Spielman, The Post-Journal.

Xpress Ready For Another Run At Metro

Having already known they will have to knock off the talented Metro Jets in order to advance in the North American Tier III Hockey League’s Fraser Cup playoffs, the Southern Tier Xpress now know when they will have to do it.

Northwest Arena will be the site of Game 1 of the best-of-three East Division semifinal series Thursday with a 7 p.m. puck drop.

“Any time you are in playoffs it’s about getting momentum and starting on a positive note,” Xpress head coach Lou Santini said Monday night. “That’s what we are looking at with the first game to be successful at home and take that momentum on the road with us.”

Game 2 will be Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Metro’s Fraser Hockeyland while an if-necessary Game 3 would be Sunday at 12:45 p.m. in Fraser, Michigan.

Metro finished the regular season 40-6-1 overall, but one of those six losses was against Southern Tier, 4-3, back on Feb. 16 at Northwest Arena.

“The Metro win gave us a lot of confidence, and so did the next day to go into Pittsburgh and win,” Santini said, “both of those wins really helped identify what we could be as a team.”

Southern Tier goaltender Brandon Heacock and the rest of the Xpress celebrate a Feb. 16 win over Metro that jump-started a 9-3-0 run to end the NA3HL regular season. P-J file photo

The victory was part of a 9-3-0 final 12 games of the season for the Xpress (23-24-0) that helped them knock Wooster out of the playoffs on the final day of the season Sunday.

“I think we’ve had a better team mentality since we came back from break in January,” Santini said. “I think the team has really pulled together as a group and really worked hard for one another to improve.”

Local product Joey Gerace led the Xpress in scoring this season with 52 points that included a team-high 31 assists and 21 goals, which were second on the team. Stuart Pearson of New Richmond, Wisconsin was second in scoring with 51 points and first in goals with 28 while chipping in 23 assists. Johnstown, Pennsylvania native Michael Lamison was third in scoring with 42 points, including a team-high 32 assists and 10 goals.

“It’s been an excellent line for us. We put them together around the end of the first half of the season,”Santini said. “It’s really taken off in the second half. They’ve really grown together as a group.”

Buffalo product Brian Grant was Southern Tier’s highest-scoring defenseman with 19 points, including four goals and 15 assists.

“Brian Grant has had a great second half of the season, He works so hard on and off the ice,” Santini said. “He’s a great role model and leader for the rest of the defensive corps.”

Xpress goaltender Ryan Pascarella (Lakewood) finished the season with an 18-17 record that included three shutouts. Pascarella had a 3.13 goals against average and a .916 save percentage.

“He’s been very good down the stretch, especially his last six games,” Santini said. “You can’t always go by the numbers. He’s made big saves at big times, carried momentum and given us opportunities to get the next goal.”

Metro leading scorer Connor Inger was sixth in the league with 41 goals to go along with 52 assists for 93 points. Griffin Sawyer had 16 goals and 35 assists for 51 points while Robby Flannery was the Jets’ leading scorer on defense with 14 goals and 33 assists for 47 points.

“We’ve been able to play our positions a little bit better against them and not run around as much,” Santini said. “That’s been the key to playing them well down the stretch here.”

Hunter Kepple and the Southern Tier Xpress beat the Metro Jets, 4-3, the last time they faced off in Jamestown. P-J file photo

Brian Tallieu (Davison, Mich.) and Andrew Kormos (Milford, Mich.) played nearly the same number of games in net for the Jets. Tallieu had better numbers with a 1.54 goals against average and a .935 save percentage to go along with four shutouts while Kormos had a 2.21 GAA and a .915 save percentage with three shutouts.

The winner of the Xpress-Jets series will take on the winner of another East Division semifinal series between the second-seeded Pittsburgh Vengeance and third-seeded Lansing Wolves.

“Metro has an outstanding work ethic. They have good, speedy forwards and a defense that likes to jump into the rush,” Santini said. “Their style of play catches people off-guard. It’s good that we’ve played them before so we have a good idea of what they bring to the table.

“We know what we are up against and we are ready for the challenge.”

Original article by Matt Spielman, The Post-Journal.

Xpress Qualify For Playoffs

While the Southern Tier Xpress finished off their North American Tier III Hockey League regular season with an 11-1 win over Roc City inside Northwest Arena late on Sunday afternoon, Coach Lou Santini’s team was forced to wait into the evening with bated breath before finally getting confirmation that they have earned a spot in the postseason.

Following the blowout victory on Fan Appreciation Day, Southern Tier players and staff stayed put at their home arena, hoping that the Wooster Oilers would fall to the Peoria Mustangs in their 6:30 p.m. matchup.

Fate was on the side of the Xpress, as the Mustangs claimed a 3-0 victory to set Southern Tier up for a playoff series with East Division champions Metro with location and time to be determined for the opening game of what will be a best-of-three series.

Above Southern Tier’s Stuart Pearson takes a shot on goal during Sunday’s NA3HL game at Northwest Arena. P-J photo by Chad Ecklof

“We’re really excited,” said Santini, who will lead the Xpress into the playoffs in his first season at the helm. “I know that it has been two or three years since the organization has been to the playoffs. We were 11 points out of a spot and to make it gives a lot of credit to the players, the owners and to our general manager, Travis Sanders, to come together for the community.”

Surely Southern Tier would have liked to have been in full control of its postseason fate on Sunday, but the Xpress certainly did all they could in the game that they could control.

Finishing the regular season at 23-24 overall, while going 7-3 in their last 10 games, the Xpress exploded with five goals in the opening period and continued to take advantage of opportunities the rest of the night.

Things got started when Stuart Pearson claimed his 27th of the season, spinning off a defender near the wall and walking in close for a quick finish past goaltender Frederick Peters in the slot.

Southern Tier then went up 2-0 as both Joey Gerace and Michael Lamison grabbed their 30th assists of the year on feeds to Chris Dusek, who buried home an open look at 9:46 of the first period.

Chris Crowley flips the puck to a teammate. P-J photo by Chad Ecklof

Michael Keller collected a pair of goals in the opener, including a power-play tally while Mark Mezsargs picked up his 11th goal of the year and 14th assist, while Christopher Crowley earned a pair of assists on his way to three for the night, and Brian Grant added a helper to push Southern Tier to a big early lead.

“That was just about a complete game all the way through and I was really happy,” said Santini. “Like I said to the boys, we got in at 4 o’clock in the morning from our road trip (to Toledo) losing an hour. It took a little bit of time to get back, which usually we know it does, but they came out right in that first period and they knew what they needed to do and they put the pedal to the metal there and it’s great to see.”

The second period saw Gerace pick up his 21st goal of the year on a slap shot right in the slot to make it 6-0, while the Xpress also added goals down the stretch from Tommy Muecke, Austin Zimmerman, Tristan Mock and Hunter Reid.

Pearson and Dusek both finished with a pair of goals while assists also went to Michael Lamison, Mezsargs, Mickenzie Restle, Keller, Hunter Kepple, Gerace, Calvin Tonzi and Luke Dobles before all was said and done.

Goaltender Brandon Heacock was not tested often on Sunday, but looked strong when he did face shots, stopping 13, while Peters turned away 27 in the loss.

Heacock also picked up an assist on Zimmerman’s goal, dishing to the defenseman who was able to go coast-to-coast for a breakaway finish.

“We wanted to get him in, we know what he’s capable of doing out there. We want to keep developing him because he came here as a young goaltender and this is another step of progress in the right direction,” Santini said of Heacock.

In addition to taking time to thank their fans for the exceptional season of support, the Xpress also used the final regular-season game to honor the billet families which have been hosting players throughout the season.

Southern Tier’s Nick Wilcox skates up the ice with the puck during Sunday’s NA3HL regular-season finale against Roc City. P-J photo by Chad Ecklof

“This has been a perfect town for a junior team. The billet families are unbelievable,” said Santini “It just works out so well, they know what the (players’) needs are. They take the kids in and they really help them out there and it’s been fantastic. I can’t thank the Jamestown family and the community more than that and anyone that wants to be a billet family, feel free to contact us because we’d love to have them.”

Looking forward to their matchup with Metro, which finished the year at 40-6-1, Santini knows that his team will have to turn the tide on a 5-1 season series that favored the East Division champions if they want to advance past the first round of playoffs.

“They’re a highly skilled team with a lot of speed that are very good at getting offensive chances and they win a lot of puck battles. I think the players know how hard you have to work against them, I think they have a good idea of the work ethic you need to be victorious. We’re ready to meet the challenge,” said the Xpress head coach.

Original article by Jay Young, The Post-Journal.

Xpress Upend Toledo; Home Finale Is Today

The Southern Tier Xpress (22-24) made their final road trip of the regular season a success Saturday night at the Toledo Ice House.

The Xpress fell behind the Toledo Cherokee (12-34-1), 1-0, but outscored the Cherokee the rest of the way for a 3-1 North American Tier III Hockey League win in the regular-season road finale.

Southern Tier ends the regular season at 2 p.m. today at home against the Roc City Royals at the Northwest Arena.

Tristin Snyder scored his 14th goal of the year from Adam Felser at 7:25 of the first period on a power play to put the hosts on top, 1-0.

The Xpress tied it up at 1-1 just before the first period ran out when Marks Meszargs got his 10th goal from Brian Grant and Jacob Zwieg at 19:50.

The Xpress took the lead at 2-1 when Joey Gerace scored his 19th goal from Chris Dusak at 13:11 of the second period. Gerace added an insurance tally with his 20th goal from Michael Lamison and Stu Pearson at 4:19 of the third stanza to make it 3-1 in favor of the Xpress.

Ryan Pascarella made 29 saves for the win while Ricardo Gonzalez stopped 49 shots in taking the loss.


Behind four first-period goals, the Southern Tier Xpress built an early lead and hung for a 5-4 victory over Toledo in a North American Tier III Hockey League game Friday night.

Marks Mezsargs, Austen Zimmerman, Mickenzie Restle and Tommy Muecke each found the net in the opening period with Christopher Crowley, Tristan Mock and Zimmerman credited with assists.

Armed with a 4-0 lead, the Xpress added a goal midway through the second period by Joey Gerace (assisted by Stuart Pearson and Brian Grant) — after Noah Finstrom got Toledo on the board three minutes earlier — to make it 5-1.

After that, the Cherokee tallied the next three goals — two by Anthony Weinrich and another by Finstrom — to cut Southern Tier’s lead to 5-4 at the 9:39 mark, but the Xpress held on.

Ryan Pascarella was the winning goalie, making 37 saves. Ricardo Gonzalez stopped 47 shots for Toledo. Credited with assists for the Cherokee were Tristin Snyder and Spencer Sandberg with two apiece, and Weinrich, Michael Papaioannou and Matt Mintun with one each.

Original article by The Post-Journal.

Xpress Fall To Metro Jets, 2-1

A day after suffering a six-goal loss to the Metro Jets, the Southern Tier Xpress were able to post a much better effort in North American Tier III Hockey League action on Sunday.

Unfortunately, the Xpress offense fell just a bit short as Metro was able to post a 2-1 win with all three goals coming in the first period.

Brodie Thornton got the Jets on the board first, while Southern Tier was able to even things up two minutes later at 7:09 when Michael Lamison sent home his 10th of the season from Stuart Pearson on the power play to pull things back to even.

In the end, George Hansen was able to put things away for Metro with assists on the game winner going to Jordan Guske and Rhett Limback.

Southern Tier’s Ryan Pascarella posted 32 saves as that loss drops the Xpress to 20-24 on the year.

Original article by The Post-Journal.

Xpress Suffer 6-0 Loss To Metro Jets

The Southern Tier Xpress saw its drive for a Eastern Division berth in the North American Tier III Hockey League Playoffs take a severe blow on Saturday night at the Fraser Hockeyland.

The Metro Jets, led by the shutout goaltending of Brian Tallieu, blanked the Xpress for the second time this season in a 6-0 win.

The Jets, who are 59-5-1, took a 2-0 edge in the opening period and never looked back in defeating the Express for the fourth time in five outings.

Brodie Thornton got the scoring going with his 15th goal of the season from Kyle Gierman and Robbie Flannery at 4:11.

The second goal belonged to George Hansen, his ninth, from Trevor Momet at 12.16.

The second period was all the Jets as they exploded for four goals to close out the scoring. Jhuzwon Davis got his 18th from Gierman at 3:20 followed by Kristian Alfrizi unassisted at 4:59, Matt Schaumbarger from Connor Inger and Griffin Sawyer at 7:21, and Momet unassisted at 13:24.

Brandon Heacock was in goal for the Xpress and made 29 saves on the 35 shots while Tallieu made 14 saves for Metro.

Southern Tier (20-23-0), which saw a four-game winning streak snapped, hopes for better results when the teams get together today at 12:45 p.m.

Original article by The Post-Journal.

Gerace Lifts Xpress To Home-Ice Victory

Joey Gerace scored the game-winning goal in the final minutes as the Southern Tier Xpress posted a 4-3 win over the Niagara Falls PowerHawks in a fight-filled North American Tier III Hockey League game at the Northwest Arena on Saturday night.

With the score tied at 3-3, Gerace converted a pass from Stu Pearson at 18:34 for his 16th goal of the season to give the Xpress the win in a game that saw Xpress player Chris Juliana be carried off the ice on a stretcher. He was taken to UPMC Chautauqua WCA where his condition wasn’t known at press time.

Less than a minute earlier, Gerace tied the game, also on pass from Pearson, at 17:46, to tie the game, 3-3.

Andrew Logar’s 38th goal gave Niagara Falls a 3-2 lead at 15:22.

The scoring started in the first period when Niagara Falls’ Stephen Minichiello netted his 28th goal from Logar at 15:04. The Xpress tied it up at 1-1 when Chris Crowley got his fourth goal from Marks Mezargs at 17:51.

Southern Tier went ahead, 2-1, in the second period when Mickenzie Restle scored his 19th goal from Tristan Mock at 15:54. However, the Powerhawks quickly tied it at 2-2 when Evan Damjano scored from Frankie Bodami at 16:06.

Ryan Pascarella made 21 saves for the Xpress while Kris Augustine was very busy with 53 saves for Niagara Falls.

The Xpress play at Metro on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and at 12:45 p.m. on Sunday.

Original article by The Post-Journal.