Some of the faces may be be different, but the award-winning Lockport Express Junior A hockey organization is bigger and better, as they prepare for their 2016-17 North American 3 Hockey League (NA3HL) opener at 8 p.m. this Friday night against the Southern Tier Express at the Cornerstone CFCU Arena downtown.
Some of the organization’s offseason changes include its Junior A affiliation. Last month, the Express announced that they reached an affiliation agreement with the NAHL’s Odessa Jackalopes.
Not only the Express, but other teams from the NA3EHL (including the Jersey Shore Wildcats, Cape Cod Islanders, New York Aviators, Lewiston/Auburn Fighting Spirit, New England Stars, Roc City Royals, Syracuse Stampede and Skylands Kings) have all joined the 47-team NA3HL. The new league will be divided in eight divisions, encompassing teams from 22 different states from Maine to Montana.
Lockport is in the NA3HL’s Northeast Division, along with the Kings, Royals, Stampede and Wildcats, as well as the Binghamton Junior Senators.
The Express finished 19-18-7 in 2015-16, placing fourth in the NA3EHL’s West Division. They qualified for the playoffs, losing their West Semifinal best-of-three series to the Jersey Shore Wildcats, 2-0.
They’ll be led in 2016-17 by new head coach Brian Becker, who takes over from NA3EHL’s former “GM of the Year” Frank Vecchio, who had served as both coach and GM. Vecchio’s outstanding tenure has also included an organization of the year award, as the team posted impressive attendance numbers at the Cornerstone and were consistently among the NA3EHL’s top drawing team.
Becker’s team began their main training camp back in mid-June at the Cornerstone. Josh Evoy, Gibson Stuart and Anthony Tommasi return to anchor the Express defense this season. Goaltender Sam Fitzpatrick has been added to the Lockport roster.
Among other key returners are forwards Frankie Bodami and Andrew Logar. Among the players to look out for this season include Aaron Shahin (6-2, 220), John Duffy, Nick Grupp, Domenic Senese and Pavel Svetlana.
Following this Friday’s home opener, the Express are scheduled to host a home & home weekend doubleheader against the Roc City Royals at 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17 at the Cornerstone; and again at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 18 at the Lakeshore Hockey Arena.
Entering its sixth season in 2015-16, the North American 3 Hockey League (NA3HL), is one of 11 USA Hockey-sanctioned Tier III Junior leagues and serves as one of the top training grounds in the country by providing the best coaching, exposure and developmental vehicles available for student-athletes in its classification.
The NA3HL began back in the early 1980s as the Junior B level Central States Hockey League (CSHL). In 2007, the CSHL changed from Junior B to Tier III Junior A under the USA Hockey classification system. In late 2010 it was announced that the North American Hockey League (NAHL) would take control of the CSHL. The NAHL-CSHL affiliation allowed for a more structured junior hockey system to provide athletes with more opportunities to advance to college and pro hockey. At the time of the takeover the league was renamed to the North American 3 Hockey League (NA3HL).
For more information on the NA3HL and Lockport Express, go to na3hl.com.