Pedulla, Whitesboro earn Section III Division II playoff win
Note: The story has been updated to reflect the game between Whitesboro and Clinton has been rescheduled for 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Clinton Arena.
WHITESBORO — The puck movement was a key component for the Whitesboro hockey team.
Santino Pedulla’s three goals could be considered good examples of what coach Pat Gaffney was preaching in Tuesday’s Section III Division II qualifier against Auburn.
Pedulla scored twice in the second period and finished the hat trick in the third as part of a four-goal output. Goaltender Kristian Matthews turned in a solid game as No. 5 seed Whitesboro overcame a slow start in a 6-1 victory over No. 8 seed Auburn at Whitestown Ice Rink.
It was the third win this season over Auburn with Whitesboro outscoring 13-2 in the games. Whitesboro advances to play at rival No. 4 seed Clinton at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in a Division II quarterfinal game.
On Tuesday, Pedulla – Whitesboro’s leading scorer this season with 29 points entering the game and finished with a four-point night – scored two goals about seven minutes apart in the second period. On the first goal, Whitesboro forced a turnover and Kaeden Wood sent a cross-ice feed to Pedulla, who finished an odd-man rush from the left side past standout goaltender Mason Jones (37 saves).
Then, with 1:39 remaining, Pedulla scored from the left side following a feed from Memphis Ferguson.
“At the first intermission, part of our conversation was ‘how do you beat a good goalie? You move the puck laterally.’ I’m pleased they took that to heart,” Gaffney said. “That’s what led to those two goals. … It was (Santino) being in the right spot to finish those off.”
It was also part of a broader approach for Whitesboro, which “struggled to play as five-man units” and didn’t move the puck well throughout the season, Gaffney said.
“Tuesday, we moved the puck quite a lot better,” he said. “Our forecheck was pretty solid. We created some turnovers and created some plays off of that.”
Pedulla finished his second hat trick with 37.7 seconds remaining on an empty-netter when Kaeden Wood elected to pass.
“It was a nice play by him,” said Pedulla, who has 22 total goals this season. “I think it just shows what a good group we are and the way we play.”
Wood (2 assists) and Michael Mazzei (first varsity goal) scored in the final 12 seconds in support of Matthews, who finished with 25 saves for Whitesboro (7-14 overall). He made several key stops, including in the opening period during Whitesboro’s slow start. Auburn took the first six shots of the game.
“It was about communicating as a team and not trying to do stuff by ourselves,” Pedulla said.
Whitesboro also had to kill off a three-minute penalty after Gavin Aceto was given a major and a game misconduct for a check from behind with 12:09 remaining in the first period. He’ll also miss Friday, Gaffney said.
“I’m not sure I share the same interpretation of (the penalty) as the officials do. To their credit, they talked about it,” Gaffney said.
Auburn (2-17-2) briefly made things interesting with Evan Moore’s goal with 8:10 remaining.
However, Matthews made a key stop soon after on Kyle Parent’s shot. Then, Josh Bono (three assists) gave Whitesboro a 3-1 lead about four minutes later when his shot from the point got through traffic.
Whitesboro knows a battle awaits against Clinton, which won two of three meetings this season. Clinton claimed a 7-3 win Jan. 10. Gaffney said his team was outworked.
“We told them: ‘You can celebrate (Tuesday). But, (Wednesday) we go back to work,” Gaffney said. “We have to remember that Clinton is a hard-playing, physical team too. I think we match up pretty well. But, we have to be ready for that. We can’t think that’s going to be quite as easy. Hopefully, that doesn’t need to be said. That’s going to be tough. I’m looking forward to it. A game at old Clinton Arena has meaning.”
In another Division II first-round game, Cazenovia topped Mohawk Valley 3-1. No stats were available from the game.
Mohawk Valley ends the season 4-15 overall.
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