AUBURN — He's elusive, possesses quick hands and has a deceptively hard shot.

Because of that, attempting to stop Auburn hockey's Johnny Malandruccolo this postseason has been a tall task for opposing teams.

So far, they've failed.

Malandruccolo, a winger for the Maroons, has racked up nine goals and 15 points in four playoff games so far. His finest performance came in Auburn's last outing against Ogdensburg Free Academy in the state regional where he recorded three goals and an assist.

For the 2017-18 season, Malandruccolo has 38 goals and 35 assists in 23 games. He's a major reason why the Maroons are facing Section VI's Sweet Home in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association semifinal on Saturday.

Malandruccolo is embracing the big stage.

"We're just excited," Malandruccolo said. "Going this far is what we wanted to do from the beginning so it's all exciting. At the same time, we're getting ready to work and finish the season off."

The reputation of scoring ability carries plenty of weight — as each opponent prepares for the Maroons, Malandruccolo tops the list of players to try and shut down. Dealing with the attention has been an adjustment, but Malandruccolo has passed with flying colors so far.

"He's a junior now, so he's bigger, faster, stronger," Auburn coach Mike Lowe said. "He understands how to handle the physicality of the game. He's quick enough, he's smart enough, and he plays with his head up. It's not easy to get a good shot on him, but he's strong for his stature. I don't think the physicality necessarily bothers him as much as it maybe once did."

Part of being a target of the other team involves dealing with mind games. The opposition will do whatever it can do knock a scorer off their skates, and the key for Malandruccolo has been to keep playing his game.

"The best thing to do is to not let them know that you know (you're a target)," Malandruccolo said. "The more that you give them the more they'll give you. The more you show them they're annoying you the worse it'll get, so you've just got to stay calm and get used to it."

Jake Morin, who has been a frequent linemate of Malandruccolo's during the last three seasons, has seen up close what separates his teammate from the pack. The duo has been nearly unstoppable this season and Morin credits his partner for doing the heavy lifting.

"He's the best offensive player on our team," Morin said. "The things that he's able to do are crazy, not just in games but in practice. He's so skilled and to be able to play with him has been so much fun. We have a blast together."

Malandruccolo didn't become the player he is overnight. Evolving into one of New York state's most dynamic talents was due to a simple intangible not every player possesses.

"His love of the game. That's why his hands are what they are and his shot is what it is is because of his love for the game and the sport," Lowe said. "He just loves to play. ... One of those kids you can't keep him down, you can't keep him out of the rink, you can't slow him down. He's just go-go-go. Any chance he gets, he wants to play. That's why his skill set is where it is."

Sports writer Justin Ritzel can be reached at 282-2257 or at Follow him on Twitter @CitizenRitz.