The Southern Tier Xpress junior hockey program is getting ready to start its inaugural season in the NA3HL, and as promised the new team has maintained its focus on developing local hockey talent and interest.
Twin brothers Jacob and Justin Andriaccio of Mayville and forward Curtis Carlson of Lakewood have been named to the 26-man roster following the Xpress' main camp at Jamestown Savings Bank Arena.
The good news is that the community focus is not just evident on the Xpress' roster, it is also shining through in the newly created Southern Tier Xpress U-16 feeder team.
Thanks to the work of head coach Bryan Muecke, the 16-U squad is also ready for its upcoming season to get underway.
"I was coaching in Jamestown the last few years with the Lakers association and had an opportunity to get involved with the Xpress," Muecke said.
"Brian Cersosimo, our general manager, and I hit it off and connected well and we share a similar philosophy of player development," Muecke added.
As a native of Duluth, Minn. with a connection to the Jamestown area, Muecke was chosen to help build the Xpress franchise in its first year by putting together a 16-and-under team to help develop hockey players from a younger age.
As the director of Camp Mission Meadows in Dewittville, Muecke had been bringing talented hockey players to Jamestown over the past several years through his work with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which has used JSBA to put on player camps.
It was actually at a FCA pro camp in Jamestown that Xpress head coach Rylan Galiardi first became familiar with the area.
"Both Rylan and I and Brian share a very similar philosophy of developing players, compared to other programs I think it is more individualized," Muecke said of his conversation with Galiardi. "This (16-U team) would be a great starting point for kids who want to play at a higher level, especially if they want to play at the college level."
Until Xpress management created their new feeder team, options for young hockey players to compete at a high level were difficult to come by in Jamestown.
Traditionally, talented players would have to travel to a junior program in Buffalo or another large city, or attend a preparatory school if they wanted to be on track to play hockey in college.
"It is a connection with our junior team here in Jamestown, ultimately our goal is to develop as many local kids to play on the Southern Tier Xpress junior team as we can," Muecke said.
As of right now, the Xpress U-16 team still has roster spots available for the upcoming season, but the spots that have been filled include skaters from Jamestown, Fredonia and Olean.
Muecke's younger team will primarily be competing in regional showcase tournaments in places such as Detroit, Buffalo and Rochester.
"We have five showcase tournaments, the first one is in Detroit in September and then in October we are in Buffalo so we are fairly close."
Also on the schedule are tournaments in Niagara Falls and Pittsburgh, while the team will fill out in their season with games against other feeder teams from the East Coast.
"We hope to have 50 games total in the season and again we'll be staying within the region for those extra games. This year we are going to do the best that we can and then next year we will be that much more established," Muecke said.
The work that is being done by Muecke and other people in the Xpress organization is just one part of the positive hockey trend that looks to be sweeping Western New York.
Between the Xpress franchise and the newly built Harbor Center in Buffalo, hockey players and fans from around the area will have more than a few reasons to smile.
"What we are doing here really compliments that (Buffalo development)," Muecke said.
"The commitment is to the community, and to be here and help local kids who have that dream of playing in college and beyond to take that first step."
Anyone who wants to catch a glimpse of Muecke's new team in action can stop by JSBA on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7 p.m. to catch the Xpress U-16 players at practice.