Liverpool hockey eliminates Auburn

Not for one second will the Liverpool ice hockey team mind being at Shove Park Friday night, facing undefeated West Genesee in the Section III Division I semifinals.

The Warriors had used a late-season push to get into the sectional playoffs, then traveled to Auburn's Casey Park Tuedsay night for a "play-in" game and prevailed 3-1 over the Maroons to earn a shot at the 20-0 Wildcats.

Liverpool and Auburn had split their regular-season meetings, the Warriors winning 4-3 on Jan. 8, the Maroons answering with an 8-2 romp on Feb. 5, a mere 11 days before the tie-breaker would decide both teams' fates.

Going all-out from the start, the Warriors achieved a series of odd-man rushes on Auburn's eighth-grade goaltender, Jeff Gardner.

It didn't work right away -- but in a telling moment just 4.9 seconds before the period ended, Gardner could not put a firm hold on Brad Capone's shot, allowing Matt McCaffrey to swoop in and put home the rebound.

Now up 1-0 going to the second period, Liverpool kept attacking. Off an Auburn turnover, McCaffrey broke in on yet another two-on-one break. Though his initial shot got stopped, McCaffrey grabbed the rebound and converted, making it 2-0.

Auburn cut it to 2-1 on Nick Herlhy's goal, but the Warriors reverted to a defensive strategy in the third period and kept the Maroons from pulling even. Capone would put home the insurance goal.

All game long, Liverpool's defense had to work hard to prevent Auburn from catching up, and goaltender Mike Sportelli was superb, stopping 30 of the 31 shots he faced.

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