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May 14, 2014

Express route

Junior A hockey team would call Lockport arena home

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Even though it’s just a frame of a building right now, the Lockport Ice Arena & Sports Center may have its first tenant.

The arena is expected to become the home of the Lockport Express, a junior A hockey team in the Northern States Hockey League. Chuck Bell, the city’s director of development and the vice president of the arena, confirmed the arena’s management has had conversations with a junior team and said no formal agreement has been reached.

”But we’re excited about the prospect,” he said.

According to the Lockport Express website, the newly created team will call the Lockport Ice Arena home. The Northern States Hockey League regular season runs from mid-September to February.

Junior hockey is for amateur players between the ages 16 and 20. In the United States, most junior leagues aim to help players reach the United States Hockey League, the highest level of junior hockey in the country. From there, players could go on to the NCAA or possibly the National Hockey League.

However, for some leagues like the Northern States organization, getting players ready for the college game is the main goal, said Frank Vecchio, the Express head coach and general manager.

“The league is geared toward moving kids into college,” he said.

Northern States is affiliated with the Amateur Athletic Union’s United Hockey Union, a grouping that includes the Western States Hockey League and the Midwest Junior Hockey League. The UHU holds a national tournament involving all three leagues in April.

The NSHL has 12 teams scattered throughout the northeastern Unites States with many players committed to a school. A few of those schools are Division I teams, the highest NCAA level of play.

Maine has a pair of teams, the Wild and the Timberwolves, as does Massachusetts, the Cape Cod Islanders and the New England Stars. New Hampshire is the home of the Junior Mariners of Salem and the AHI Fighting Spirit, based in Waterville Valley.

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