With its place in the Section III playoffs well secured, the Cazenovia ice hockey team still could move up the regular-season standings to improve its seeding, perhaps as high as a no. 3 spot.
The big chance arrived last Tuesday night, when the Lakers visited Casey Park Rink to face Auburn, and were in full command until a disastrous third period led to a 3-3 tie.
Through the first two periods, the Lakers pushed Auburn around. Brian Gara had a goal and assist, with David Marshall and Jake Stowell also finding the net, as Cazenovia grabbed a 3-0 lead. Jeff Stowell earned two assists, with Billy Rankin adding one assist.
Cazenovia took a full arsenal of shots, but Auburn goaltender Jeff Gardner kept his side within sight on his way to 56 saves for the night.
Then the Maroons’ attack broke through in the third period. Kevin Franceschelli and Brendan King put in goals to cut the margin to 3-2, forcing the Lakers out of its attacking mode as things got close.
Then, with 25 seconds left and Gardner pulled in favor of an extra skater, Mike Gentile poked a shot past Cazenovia goalie Joey Vecchiarelli to tie it. Neither side would convert in overtime as Vecchiarelli finished with 20 saves.
Auburn’s rally meant that Cazenovia still was tied with the Maroons for third in Division II with 16 points heading into Thursday’s game against Fulton at the Morrisville State IcePlex.
It was Senior Night, and given what had happened at Auburn, the Lakers, especially Gara, were in no mood for any more giveaways as it went out and beat the Red Raiders 5-2.
The difference here was that Cazenovia did not have a quick start, only tied 1-1 through one period. Only through hard work in the second period did the Lakers finally get in front, 3-2, and it wore down Fulton in the late going, notching a pair of insurance goals.
Gara made his Senior Night a memorable one, scoring three times for a hat trick and adding an assist. Marshall and Stowell notched the other goals, with Joe Colligan adding a pair of assists. Rankin and Brad Nardella each had one assist.
Cazenovia still has one more regular-season home game, next Saturday against Clinton, to make up a Jan. 13 snow postponement, and the Warriors might need that win to make the playoffs.
Before that, though, the Lakers visit Hamilton and Whitesboro in a busy closing stretch before the playoffs are set to begin Feb. 17.