OGDENSBURG — The Maroons are one of New York state’s last four teams standing.
Auburn hockey continued its ascent through the postseason with a 5-2 victory over Ogdensburg Free Academy in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Division II regionals Saturday in Ogdensburg.
The victory ensures the Maroons of the program’s second trip to the state final four, where they’ll face Section VI’s Sweet Home March 10 at the HarborCenter in Buffalo.
“It’s well-deserved. It’s a great group of kids on and off the ice. They work their tails off,” Auburn coach Mike Lowe said. “It’s great to see them just keep getting better. This is the time of year you want to peak. Coaches try and plan to be peaking at the end of the year, and these guys keep getting better day in and day out. It’s a special group.”
Johnny Malandruccolo recorded three goals and an assist to pace Auburn, while Jake Morin (assist) and Brendan Williams (assist) rounded out the scoring. Aidan Hastings was credited with a pair of assists and Hunter Tubbert added one helper. Goalie Jack Kalabanka made 25 saves to earn the victory.
Auburn fell behind 1-0 only 1:24 into the contest when OFA’s Isaac Testani maneuvered though the Maroons’ defense before beating Kalabanka.
After surviving a penalty kill shortly after the Blue Devils opened the scoring, Malandruccolo’s first of the day drew Auburn even with 1:22 remaining in the opening period. The Maroons won a puck battle below the goal line and Morin slid a pass across the crease to Malandruccolo for a tap in.
Auburn took a 2-1 lead midway through the second on Malandruccolo’s second goal when he was left alone in front of the OFA net, received a pass from Williams and roofed a shot top corner.
The Maroons’ advantage was short-lived — OFA’s Testani scored again on a scramble in front of the net 26 seconds later to tie the score 2-2.
In the third period, it was Auburn that took control. On the power play, Malandruccolo set up atop the circle and fed Morin for a one-timer on the opposite side that beat OFA goalie Jacob Ball with 9:09 remaining.
Auburn didn’t rest on its laurels — Williams powered his way from the corner to the front of the net and roofed a backhander to give the Maroons a two-goal advantage with less than two minutes remaining, and Malandruccolo completed the hat trick on a empty net inside the last minute.
Malandruccolo’s four-point game continues a torrid stretch of scoring — the junior now has nine goals and 15 points in four playoff games. He’s scored at least two goals in four straight games.
“He’s been my best friend since day one,” Williams said of Malandruccolo. “We grew up playing together. I’m used to seeing his play every day and every game. Kid’s just a monster.”
Physicality was evident from the opening puck drop and Auburn was sure to deliver their share of blows to the Blue Devils. Ross Burgmaster threw two massive checks in the first period that helped the Maroons shake off some of the rustiness that plagued them in the opening minutes.
It also helps, after giving up an early goal for the second straight game, that Lowe’s group is a “confident” bunch that can overcome mistakes in the opening minutes.
“They know we’re going to score our goals,” Lowe said. “Teams can go all out in the first period, but can they do it for three periods like our guys are doing right now? We might be down early but we’re confident come the third period we’re going to have the legs more-so than our opponent.”