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Saturday, March 7, 2015
The Wilkes-Barre Miners work in the second period of tonight's game against the Lockport Express. The Miners ended up winning the game in the third overtime. (PHOTOS BY HEATHER N. GRIMMER / ENP PHOTOGRAPHER)

BY +Scott Leffler

Sixty minutes of hockey wasn't enough to find a winner. Neither was 65. Or 70. In the end, it took 71:54 for the Wilkes-Barre Miners to be declared the victor, setting up a game-three rubber match Sunday afternoon.

The Express put pressure on the Miners in the second period. 
What an exciting 71:54 it was. The two teams combined for 17 goals on 111 shots. There were 39 minutes of penalties on 18 infractions. And in the end there was plenty of wide-open ice as league rules call for 3-on-3 hockey after the first 5-minute 4-on-4 overtime.

Express goaltender Tyler Shotwell, who looked nearly unbeatable Friday night, when he stopped 55 of 57 shots, looked shaky tonight, at best. He gave up two goals on his first three shots.

Derek Bureau made it 2-0 before the Express realized there was a hockey game, scoring just 55 seconds in, assisted by Francois Lacrois and Jonathan Wisten; and again a minute and six seconds later, assisted by Jan Mendel. Lockport fought back at 4:47 with a Justin Durkee goal, assisted by Justin Blake and Jacob Burford. Wilkes-Barre answered at 5:17 with a goal by Guillaume St. Germain from Daniel Leisser and Bureau. Then Mark Friol shot back at 7:02, assisted by Burford and Daniel Golba. Krystof Rykala put Wilkes-Barre back up by two at 16:27. Zoltan Eross assisted.

In the second period, Ryan Logar pulled the Express back within one at 2:17, assisted by Daniel Golba and Gibson Stuart. Wilkes-Barre pulled back ahead at 3:53 with a goal by Michael Tugo, assisted by Rykala and Francois Lacroix. Hayes made it 5-4 with a goal at 14:57, assisted by Anthony Merante and Mark Friol. Then Justin Blake tied the game at 17:58, awakening the sellout crowd at Cornerstone CFCU Arena. Jan Mendel made the celebration shortlived, putting the Miners back up 6-5 at 19:29.

The sign contest sponsored by Lock 71 Trading will continue during 
Sunday's game. The game has a 1 p.m. start. 
In the third period, Hayes tied the game again at 8:45. Golba and Jordan Pocobello assisted. Logar gave the Express their first lead of the game, assisted by Alex Bottenfield and Austin Kasperek. Then at 13:06, Wilkes-Barre tied it again with a goal by Austin Bandura, assisted by Kenny Myers. Michael Tugo made it 8-7 Wilkes-Barre, assisted by Leisser and St. Germain at 14:33. Anthony Merante tied the game again at 15:57, assisted by Golba.

As the clock ticked down to the end of the third period, the crowd got more and more into the game, standing, cheering, ooh-ing and ah-ing with each pass, shot and hit. Regulation ended tied at 8.

NA3EHL rules call for a 5-minute 4-on-4 overtime period, followed by 5-minute 3-on-3 overtime periods until someone wins.

The 4-on-4 period passed without a goal. The first 3-on-3 period passed without a goal. And then in the second 3-on-3 period, Mendel scored at 1:56. Rykala and Tugo assisted. The handful of Wilkes-Barre fans in the stands cheered. The rest were silent.

As is custom, the Express saluted the fans and walked off the ice. Coach Frank Vecchio put the guys through a workout after the game, toughening them up for Sunday's 1 p.m. start.

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