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Friday, September 18, 2015

By +Craig Bacon 
ENP contributor

After missing the opening weekend of the Lockport Express Junior A hockey team, I was able to attend a game Thursday evening between the Lockport Express 18u and the West Seneca Wings 18u at the Cornerstone Arena.

Things with the 18u team are a little bit different than the typical Junior game. There are three 15-minute periods with a quick two-minute break between periods.  The ice is only cleaned once -- at the very start of the game.

In Thursday’s game, Lockport got off to a very quick start, holding West Seneca in their own zone for most of the first half of the period. The Express made it 1-0 with a goal by Kyle Sloka, assisted by Jacob Sepulveda, six minutes into the first.

The second period saw West Seneca start to gather some steam and come on strong. Express defenseman, Sam Rydzewski took two penalties during the period which resulted in a pair of power play goals for the Wings. Sean Goodspeed put West Seneca on the board for the first time with a goal five minutes in, assisted by Elijah Boccolucci and Ryan Krzykowski.

A few moments later, Jordan Stachelski was stoned on a breakaway by Lockport goaltender, Antonio Szpara. The Express had a series of miscues on a power play late in the period which led to a shorthanded breakaway chance for West Seneca. Rydzewski took a slashing penalty to prevent a goal, a penalty that head coach, Lyle Rocker, called “a good penalty to take.”

The Wings piled up chances on the ensuing 4-on-4 play. Shortly after returning to full strength with Lockport still in the box, Stachelski slipped one past Szpara to make it 2-1, Wings.

The third period saw a series of defensive breakdowns by Lockport lead to three straight goals by Christopher Ciolek of the Wings. His first of the night came 5:40 into the third, assisted by Zachary Weimer and Cameron Peters.

Lockport inched closer just two minutes later with a goal by Michael Miller from Mitchell Thornton and Kyle Sroka to make it 3-2. Ciolek extended the lead with only 1:18 left on the clock, then completed the hat trick, burying the puck into the empty net with 34 seconds left in the game.

“I told our guys after the game, we got to stay on the gas pedal for 45 minutes. We didn’t do that tonight,” Coach Rocker explained after the game. “Our d-zone was a weak point for us tonight, for sure. Last night it was a hot point.”

Up next for the Lockport Express 18u is a game against Bud Bakewell’s Midget u18 on Saturday evening at Riverside Arena in Buffalo. Game time is 9 p.m.

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