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AUBURN — Johnny Malandruccolo scoring goals is a familiar concept.

In his latest trip to the ice, the Maroons senior accomplished something that even in his own prolific career hadn't been done. 

Malandruccolo scored all six goals for Auburn hockey in a 6-3 victory over Cicero-North Syracuse Tuesday at Casey Park Ice Rink. The centerman scored four times at even strength, once on the power play and once while the Maroons were short-handed.

Four came in the third period alone as Auburn was battling back from a one-goal deficit entering the frame. Malandruccolo had scored three goals 11 times previously, including his first game this year, but had never scored four or more. 

"You give that kid the smallest of holes, he's going to hit it," Auburn coach Mike Lowe said. "The goalie is not going to save it. (Malandruccolo) will either miss the net or it's in. When he's got his head up and he's got time, it's deadly."

Ty Hlywa picked up assists on three goals, while Brendan Williams also picked up one helper.

While Malandruccolo had the offensive spotlight, the Maroons also received a steady effort from goaltender Aaron Kowal. Kowal, a junior, made 31 saves including some key stops in the second period as Cicero-North Syracuse made its big push.

It was the first time this season an Auburn goalie had been allowed to start and finish a game. Kowal and Jackson Siddall had been splitting time in the Maroons' previous three outings.

(Kowal) has come a long way already in a month," Lowe said. "Three goals tonight, and two were shots from the point with a lot of traffic in front and one was a backdoor tap-in. He made some very good saves. He's making the first save, making the saves he should make so he's doing a lot of good things.

"He's going to keep getting better and keep improving. He's long, he's tall, he wants to be good and he wants to get better. He's got a lot of characteristics that offer up the chance to improve."

Auburn seemed on the verge of pulling away early after two Malandruccolo goals in the first, but the Northstars scored three straight in the third period, including one 34 seconds in, to take a 3-2 lead on the Maroons.

Malandruccolo was in the penalty box when Cicero-North Syracuse scored its go-ahead goal, but he made amends on the third. He tied the score only two minutes into the final period, then gave Auburn a 4-3 lead roughly a minute later. His next two, both on special teams, put the game away.

Auburn, the defending Section III, Division II champion, is still working its way back to the level that it ended last season. The Maroons lost the program's leading scorer Jake Morin as well as starting goalie Jack Kalabanka and defender Aidan Hastings all to graduation.

While the Maroons returned many players from the group that went to the state semifinal a year ago, many are adjusting to new roles. There is hope that the team can peak just in time for playoffs, as it did a year ago.

"Tonight was a nice game for us in that we made some progress. You can see that we're building," Lowe said. "Our goal is to play our best hockey at the end of the year. We're not playing our best, but we will be. We're just trying to get better every day, concentrating on the long haul and long-term goals."

Auburn (2-2) faces Whitesboro Friday.

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

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