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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Up 3-2 with under 30 seconds left to play and facing an open net in the New England end, it looked like the Lockport Express would cap off a great weekend at Cornerstone Arena with a 3-0 record during the NA3EHL 2K15 Showcase Tournament.

But it wasn't to be.

Lockport had three clean shots on the empty net in the New England Stars' end, missing each one and allowing the Stars to stay in the game. Then, with just 18 seconds left to play, Steve Crocker banged a goal past Lockport netminder Ryan Kostelnik, tying the game for the Stars and effectively sending it into overtime.

In the 5 minute overtime period, Lockport got what most fans — and the Express' coach — felt was a questionable call at 3:38 when Christopher Gasiewicz was tagged for holding.

"In the overtime call on Gaz, the guy was holding him," Express Head Coach and GM Frank Vecchio said. "He had both arms around him. And Gaz pushed him to get away."
In short, Vecchio felt the call was unjustified. As many as 200 Lockport fans in the stands felt it should have gone the other way. 

Now down a man, playing 4-3 with just a minute and a half to go, Lockport was clearly playing uphill. And then with 14 seconds to go in the overtime period, there was a faceoff in the Lockport end. Shortly after the faceoff, Crocker — who had tied the game — scored the game-winning goal. But the clock never started. 

Fans were screaming at the refs from the stands that the equipment failure should have negated the goal. But the officiating crew would hear none of it. Officially, the time of the goal was listed as 4:55. 

What started out as a fun, family friendly atmosphere, ended with fans angry at the refs and calling for league review. 

Vecchio didn't go so far but he expressed his appreciation at the fans' support. "I told the guys in the locker room that we've been in this rink for a couple months and we've got fans that are supportive and passionate. We're very lucky," he said. "The guys like it. They feel like the fans are on their side."

As for his team's performance in the game? "I thought they played hard," Vecchio said. "(They) played about half the game shorthanded."

In fact, Lockport had 55 minutes in penalties on 13 infractions.

Vecchio said New England's MO seems to be to play a chippy game in order to slow down the speedy Lockport team. He also said he wasn't overly upset about the penalties his team took as Lockport played chippy back. 

Normally Vecchio stresses discipline ... "but we've always told our guys ... we're not birthday party pinatas for other teams either."

Lockport goals were scored by Christian Whitcomb, Anthony Merante and Nick Siracuse. New England's first two goals were scored by Jake Latham. 

The overtime loss gives the Express a 20-6-1 record on the season. New England's record now stands at 17-10-2. 

On the weekend, the Express earned five of a six possible points and climbed to within two points of second-place New Hampshire Fighting Spirit. 

New Hampshire, 6 - Syracuse, 5

The second-best team in the NA3EHL came into this morning's game having lost its first two games in the showcase. Determined to close out stong, the New Hampshire Fighting Spirit capped off the tournament with a shootout win over the Syracuse Stampede.

It took an Alex Peddle goal with just seconds to go in the second period to force the game to overtime. Then after a scoreless overtime, Tim Casey slid a puck past a sprawling Ryan Scheide, giving New Hampshire the much-needed victory. 

Peddle also scored a goal in the first period, as did Brett Bittner for New Hampshire and Xavier Perron for Syracuse. In the second period, aside from Peddle's game-tying goal, New Hampshire goals were scored by Dominic Gruttadauria, Casey and Braeden Pearl. Syracuse saw goals by Perron, Felix Landry and Dan Buehler. 

RELATED: For photos from the last day of the showcase click here.

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