With a week remaining in the regular season, the Liverpool ice hockey team was just one bad performance away from an early exit. It had to keep winning, or else.
But the Warriors never reached the "or else" point, reeling off three consecutive wins in a span of four days that forced a one-game showdown with Oswego Wednesday night to see who moved ahead into the Section III Division I playoff bracket.
Maintaining all that late momentum, Liverpool used timely offense and a first-rate effort from goaltender Jacob Gyder to beat the Buccaneers 3-1 and keep on going.
They had played twice in the regular season -- a 4-4 tie on Jan. 8, then a 6-2 Warrior victory on Feb. 5 that had kept Liverpool alive in the playoff chase, just eight days before they were to meet again for much higher stakes.
Through an evenly played first period, neither side could break through, Oswego unable to convert its lone power play and Liverpool rarely getting open ice from which its potent offense could operate.
All that changed when the Bucs were whistled for two simultaneous penalties late in the period. With a 5-on-3 advantage, Liverpool broke in front when Josh LaRose ripped a wrist shot from the right point past Oswego goaltender David Abare into the top right corner of the net.
It stayed 1-0 throughout the second period, despite a furious Oswego attack. It took 13 shots, some of them of the point-blank variety, but Gyder turned them all away, as his work accounted for half the total of 26 saves he would eventually put up.
Early in the third period, Liverpool put it away. LaRose struck again with 13:38 with the same wrist shot that found the same spot in the net as he had done earlier.