Xpress Shut Out Again By Lansing
Midway through the third period of Saturday evening’s North American Tier III Hockey League East Division game against Lansing, the Southern Tier Xpress lost their cool.
By that point, they were already on their way to losing the game.
The Wolves put the game away with a pair of goals spanning the end of the second and start of the third periods en route to a 5-0 victory at Northwest Arena.
“It was very baffling why we didn’t score. We are going to have to focus in on a few things in practice this week,” Southern Tier coach Lou Santini said. “We had 37 shots tonight, something should’ve fell for us and it didn’t. … Ultimately to win games you have to score goals.”
Lansing scored its final goal 7:22 into the third period and three minutes later things got ugly. The Wolves’ Garrison Weyh and Southern Tier’s Jacob Zwieg were ejected for fighting while the Xpress’ Christopher Crowley was assessed a 10-minute misconduct.
Three minutes after that, Lansing’s Christopher Seelye and Southern Tier’s John Ogeka were also both ejected for fighting in addition to 10-minute misconducts for continuing the altercation after referees intervened.
When all was said and done, the teams combined for 23 penalties totaling 191 minutes.
“There were some calls we thought should’ve been made that weren’t made,” Santini said. “Anything like that and frustration builds in.”
The Wolves (20-14-1-2) opened the scoring just 1:04 into the game on their first shot when Mike Forman converted a pass from Brendan Smith for his sixth goal of the season.
“I think it helps. It eases the guys and gives them a little confidence,” Lansing coach Mark Lawrence said of the early goal. “Southern Tier doesn’t quit. The game isn’t over until it’s over with them. We just kept battling until the end.”
The Xpress (14-21-0-0) hung with Lansing for the remainder of the first period and put 15 shots on goaltender Will Ignatovich, but were unable to convert.
Lansing found itself in the penalty box for much of the second period, but again Southern Tier was unable to convert.
“You had the opportunities right there on the power play,” Santini said. “Our one unit seemed like they struggled getting the puck in the zone. The other unit did do a good job of getting the puck in the zone and getting opportunities. Once again we just didn’t finish.”
Then 14:34 into the period, Ignatovich was ejected for fighting after throwing a punch with his blocker hand, forcing Friday night’s shutout winner Sean Finstrom back into action.
The Wolves made it 2-0 during a resulting 4-on-4 as Forman scored his seventh of the season off Smith’s 20th assist.
After killing the remainder of Ignatovich’s five-minute major, Lansing put the game away as Forman won a face-off in the Southern Tier zone directly to Smith who beat Xpress goaltender Ryan Pascarella over his glove hand with 17 seconds left in the period.
“Any coach will tell you a face-off goal with under a minute in any period is disappointing,” Santini said. “We went over their plays and their coverages, but it was just a mental lapse there. We didn’t get to the guy that shot the puck. We’ve got to be prepared for that.”
“Those five-minute penalties are tough. They are game-changers,” Lawrence said. “I think our penalty killers buckled down and did a great job of killing that. That was a huge turning point in the game.”
Brandon Ashley scored his eighth of the season from Weyh just 49 seconds into the third period before Noah Pipper capped the scoring with his eighth of the season from Justin Sill.
“We had a good, hard week of practice because we knew Southern Tier was on a little bit of a roll,” Lawrence said. ” … The games were close up until mid-second period and the power plays were a huge difference in this game.”
Southern Tier has next weekend off before returning to action Feb. 9-11 for a key three-game homestand against the Wooster Oilers (16-13-3-0) at Northwest Arena.
“The three games against Wooster are huge,” Santini said. ” … I think the week off is good for us. We do need it right now.”
NOTES: Ignatovich and Finstrom combined for 37 saves in the shutout while Pascarella turned aside 47 of the 52 shots he faced. … Forman, Smith and Michael Osinski were named the Three Stars of the game. … Southern Tier Forward Joey Gerace was named the NA3HL East Star of the Week for his performance last weekend against Roc City. On Friday, Gerace finished with five assists and a plus-5 rating as Southern Tier beat the Royals, 9-4, at Lakeshore Hockey Arena. On Saturday, Gerace had a goal and two assists as the Xpress won, 10-2, at Northwest Arena. Gerace finished the weekend with a plus-9 rating.