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Sunday, March 8, 2015
The Lockport Express work on the Wilkes-Barre goalie this afternoon. In three games, the Express scored 20 goals, good enough for only one win. (PHOTOS CONTRIBUTED BY AMY ROOT)

By +Scott Leffler

With just 5 minutes to play in the third period of this afternoon's deciding game in the playoff series between the Lockport Express and the Wilkes-Barre Miners, the home team was up three goals.

Pre-game warmups included some psychological warfare. 
It was Lockport's game to lose. Unfortunately for the team and for the hundreds of fans watching at Cornerstone CFCU Arena, they did.

A series of bad decisions and untimely penalties cut the Express lead from 6-3 to 6-4. Then 6-5. With just 1:15 to play in regulation, the Miners tied the game and sent it into overtime. And then at 4:08 of the first overtime period, Jonathan Wisten of the Wilkes-Barre Miners ended the Express' season.

Head Coach Frank Vecchio said Lockport's Junior A team showed their youth, losing to what Vecchio has called the NA3EHL's "most skilled team, top-to-bottom."

"When you have a young team, it's growing pains with learning how to play with a lead," Vecchio said after the game. "You've got some guys that are looking to score the seventh goal as opposed to preventing the fourth for the other team."

That youthful exuberance, which has — at times — come in handy for the Express, was their downfall today.

"We really had the series won and gave it back to them," Vecchio said.

Express' backup goaltender Ryan Kostelnik gets in some pre-game practice.
The deciding game started in a back-and-forth manner, with both teams trading goals through the first two periods.

Anthony Merante started the scoring for Lockport just 1:54 into the game, assisted by Frank Vecchio Jr. and Nick Siracuse. Guillaume St. Germain tied it for Wilkes-Barre at 3:44, assisted by Zoltan Eross. Lockport headed to the locker room with the lead, though as Daniel Golba notched a power play goal at 14:37, assisted by Ryan Logar and Jacob Burford.

The second period started with the Miners tying the game back up on a St. Germain power-play goal at 1:15. Derek Bureau assisted. Dillon Hayes put Lockport back up — 3-2 — at 2:37, assisted by Mark Friol and Austin Kasperek. St. Germain tied it again at 11:11, assisted by Wisten.

For a while it was all Lockport. Justin Durkee made it 4-3 at 11:36, assisted by Justin Blake and Peter Guido. Logar scored a power play goal at 19:01 of the second, assisted by Golba and Jordan Pocobello. And Merante scored his second of the game just 3:17 into the third, assisted by Siracuse and Vecchio. The score remained 6-3 for 12 minutes before the wheels came off.

Nick Siracuse tallied two assists in the loss.
Daniel Leisser made it 6-4 at 15:17, assisted by Derek Bureau and Hunter Hackling. Michael Tugo scored on the power play at 16:15, assisted by Krystof Rykala and Austin Bandura. Two minutes and 30 seconds later, Tugo scored again, assisted by Bureau and sending the game into overtime, where Wisten notched the game winner.

After dominating the Miners in Game 1, the Express lost two tight games in overtime to allow the Miners to take on the NA3EHL's top team — the Jersey Shore Wildcats — for the Western Division title and the opportunity to play for the league championship.

Following the loss, Vecchio and the team thanked the fans in attendance at the game for their support.

"It's more than we ever expected," Vecchio said. "We appreciate them coming out and supporting us."

While Wilkes-Barre will move on in the playoffs, the Express management is already thinking of next season. Vecchio said he'll start setting up camps and recruiting players for next year in the next couple months. The team is sure to have two players to replace as Alex Bottenfield and Dillon Hayes have aged out of the league.

The team will return to Cornerstone CFCU Arena at 7 p.m. Tuesday to clean out their lockers for the off season.

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