Gerace, Stuart, Lamison Shine On Home Ice In Xpress Win
Southern Tier ran its win streak to four straight after Joey Gerace’s two-goal, two-assist performance lifted the Xpress to a dominant 10-2 NA3HL win over visiting Roc City in front of a sizable crowd inside Northwest Arena on Saturday evening.
The Xpress line of Gerace, Stuart Pearson and Michael Lamison combined for seven points on the evening, and is quickly becoming one of coach Lou Santini’s go-to forward units.
“I just want them to keep improving every game,” Santini said of the trio. “They bring so much energy and enthusiasm and if they can just keep that level up that they are producing out there and keep bringing it every single day, that’s what I’m asking from them.”
Pearson ended his night with a pair of assists after grabbing back-to-back hat tricks to help improve Southern Tier’s record to 14-19 on the season.
The Xpress wasted no time in getting going in front of their home crowd, with the night’s opening goal coming after Pearson flashed through the neutral zone on a breakaway, where he was able to corral his own rebound and dish the puck in front to Gerace for a quick finish with Lamison earning the other assist.
It was off to the races after that early start, as Nick Wilcox picked up his eighth of the season two minutes later after Royals’ goaltender Josh Martinez attempted to freeze a puck, but bobbled the effort, allowing Wilcox to dish a backhand cleanly into the back of the net to make it 2-0.
The crowd inside Northwest Arena was once again roused at 16:24 when Mickenzie Restle was able to spin away from a defender inside the Roc City zone and find Gerace all alone in the slot, where the Jamestown native was able to transition to his backhand for a three-goal margin.
After Gerace, Pearson and Lamison began the season on the same line, the three forwards were split up until their recent reunion.
“It was probably beginning of December, late November that (coach) put us back together,” said Gerace. “Even if we don’t get points we’re productive. We’re doing well in the offensive zone and I think we’re just a complete line. We have the hard working grinding player. Lamison is really not afraid to get his nose dirty. Pearson is phenomenal with the puck, great playmaker, great shot, and I’m kind of in between those two things.”
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Gerace added assists on Jacob Zweig’s goal — Southern Tier’s sixth of the night — a screened shot from the point, as well as Southern Tier’s final goal of the evening which came in the form of a clean dish to Tristan Mock in the closing minute of play.
After finishing the night with his 23rd helper and 11th goal of the season, Gerace is happy to have the monkey off his back on home ice.
“Home wins are the best, they really are. I mean it feels good to go into another team’s rink and win, but the home wins, it’s what we need,” he said. “We have a great community here, great fan base, and we have let them down too many times. Even in the past two years prior to this, we’ve let them down too many times. It’s nice to get a home win, it really is, and it’s not only for us in the locker room, but for the people that can watch us every night.”
Captain Ty Rickabaugh was named second star of the night after Gerace, as the defensemen ripped home Southern Tier’s fourth goal shorthanded, picking off a clearing pass at the blue line and walking in for a wrist-shot that clanged off a pair of posts before settling in behind Martinez.
Rickabaugh collected his fourth goal of the year after being sent on a breakaway on a pass by Zweig and beating replacement goaltender Shane Phillips low on the glove side.
“Joey has really come on, especially like I said the last two, three weeks especially with the two other linemates with Lamison and (Pearson),” said Santini. “They are really doing a lot of good things and he’s getting his shot off. He’s going to the net, he’s stopping in front of the net and that’s how you are going to score goals.”
The Xpress were not without a strong effort in net despite the lopsided score, as Brandon Heacock made 30 saves on 32 shots, including a confident stop on a penalty shot by Spencer Norris at 5:26 of the first period.
Heacock was able to out-wait Norris and slide cleanly to his left for a pad save to give Southern Tier a big stop early in the game.
“I thought tonight we skated much better and I thought we passed the puck much better than last night. I thought the rhythm and the flow was much better tonight compared to (Friday’s) game,” Santini said of his team’s effort.
Also lighting the lamp for Southern Tier were Mark Mezsargs, Mock, Dominic Cappella and Michael Keller, while Chris Crowley grabbed a pair of assists and single helpers came from Mezsargs, Restle, Tommy Muecke, Brian Grant and Trevor Hubert.
The Xpress will remain home next weekend at 7 p.m. Friday and at 5 p.m. Saturday against visiting Lansing.