Sophomore forward Joey Sardina scored his second goal of the game with just 49.5 seconds remaining at Aurora University Friday night and the 5-5 tie clinched home ice for the Foresters in the first round of the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association Harris Cup Playoffs.
It only took the home team 84 seconds to get on the board after a shot was redirected in front. At 15:20 of the first period sophomore forward Aaron O'Neill collected a pass from freshman forward Josh Giacomin at the top of the left circle and snapped a shot off beating the goaltender far side to tie the score. Just 2:01 later Lake Forest took the lead on the power play with Sardina roofing one over the blocker of the netminder from the left dot with an excellent screen from junior forward Austin Aksoy. Freshman forward Cullen Kane and junior defenseman Connor Duncan picked up assists on Sardina's eighth score of the season and the Foresters took a 2-1 lead into the first intermission.
Junior defenseman Zach Feldman had not scored since the Foresters' last game at Fox Valley Ice Arena back in December, but the San Diego native would strike at 11:01, giving the away team a 3-1 lead on a wrist shot from the left circle. Kane earned his second assist of the night on the play. Just 59 seconds later freshman forward Josh Giacomin grabbed the puck in the right circle and got a quick wrist shot off that found the back of the net for his sixth score of the year, making the lead 4-1. Senior forward Bron Loiselle and junior forward Austin Aksoy received the assists on the tally. The Spartans scored a goal of their own in the middle frame but Lake Forest went into the locker room after 40 minutes ahead 4-2 and leading in shots 24-16.
Aurora had a spark between periods and rattled off goals at 7:22, 9:02, and 11:07 to take a 5-4 lead. In the dying moments of the third period, and with the goaltender pulled, Duncan wristed one from the right point which was redirected by Sardina into the back of the net, tying the game at 5-5 with just 49.5 seconds on the clock.
Lake Forest outshot the Spartans 32-31 but 65 minutes of play could not provide a winner. The Foresters' record went to 10-8-6 overall and 8-5-4 in NCHA play and Aurora's to 11-12-1 overall and 8-8-1 in the league. The same two teams will meet in Lake Forest Saturday night at 7:00 p.m. to close out the regular season. Eleven Forester seniors will be recognized before their final regular season home game.
by Cam McGuire