Southern Tier’s Struggles In Even-Strength Play Continue

Mickenzie Restle of the Southern Tier Xpress (13) flips the puck past the Pittsburgh Vengeance goalie Jacob Zab and into the net during Friday’s North American Tier III Hockey League game at Northwest Arena. P-J photo by Chad Ecklof

Despite the cheerful atmosphere downtown following the annual Christmas Parade and Holiday Celebration hosted by the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation, the Southern Tier Xpress were unable to hang on to an early lead as the Pittsburgh Vengeance claimed a 4-2 NA3HL victory at Northwest Arena on Friday night.

Once again the Vengeance showed why they sit atop the East Division, rifling four goals past Southern Tier netminder Ryan Pascarella in the second period to improve to 19-6.

Despite an early tally from Mickenzie Restle, the Xpress dropped to 7-15 on the year after failing to come up with enough points during even-strength play.

“We were happy the way that we played. I think with the game plan, everything was good,” said Xpress coach Lou Santini. “Our problem right now is we’ve just been struggling trying to score five-on-five goals. We had two power-play goals tonight, which I was real happy about because the power play has been getting a lot of chances, but they didn’t finish and then tonight they did.”

Indeed, Restle’s first goal of the night showed improvement for the Southern Tier special teams as Nic Allen fired a shot from the point that careened around before Michael Keller and Tristan Mock were able to feed Restle for the easy finish.

Southern Tier’s Waltteri Makinen maneuvers through a crowd during Friday’s NA3HL game at Northwest Arena. P-J photo by Chad Ecklof

The Xpress would carry that lead all the way through the opening period, but it was Justin Shephard who was able to bang home an easy rebound with assists going to Marks Mezsargs and Ian Edgar to even the game at 1-1.

That tally was followed shortly by another second-chance opportunity, with Austin Martz taking advantage of a loose puck, this time thanks to some grinding work and assists from Lucas Kirk and Jacob Friedman.

“We’ve been a little disappointed with the defensive zone coverage. We’ve had a couple of issues where two guys go to one, and then one guy is open in front,” Santini said. “So we have to do just a better job of picking our guy up and clearing him out.”

After relinquishing back-to-back goals the Xpress were able to regain some momentum as Nic Allen took a pass from Restle and fired another point shot through a defensive screen, with Tristan Mock notching a tip to finish off the play for a goal.

Pittsburgh wasted no time in responding as the Xpress were unable to clear a puck in their defensive zone. It was Simon Soderberg who took advantage of that miscue by notching his sixth of the season with an assist going to Austin Martz. The final Vengeance goal of the evening was picked up on yet another second-chance opportunity when Marks Mezsargs was able to finish on a open net following shots in close by Justin Bioni and Martz.

Jacob Zab ended his night with 33 saves while Pascarella finished with 36 saves on 40 shots. The Xpress are next in action against the Toledo Cherokee on the road next Friday.