KENT — There’s an old saying that has been repeated over and over again throughout the years.
"It’s hard to beat a team three times in a row."
John Sheridan sure thinks so. Of course, three times might sound more like a trillion to the longtime Aurora head ice hockey coach.
"It’s hard to beat a team once," Sheridan said somewhat jokingly.
Three Dog Night may have claimed "One is the loneliest number" in its 1969 hit.
As for Sheridan, he might believe in a less sophisticated but far more pleasing quote involving the most primal of all numbers.
"One thing about them tables, they always turn."
Let’s just say the Greenmen were perfectly happy to move this particular "needle."
Eleventh-seeded Aurora earned a thrilling 5-3 victory over ninth-seeded Solon in the opening round of the Kent district tournament Monday at Kent State University Ice Arena.
With the win, the Greenmen (17-13) are scheduled to play eighth-seeded Cleveland Heights in the second round Friday at 8 p.m. The Comets, on the other hand, concluded their season with a 10-13-1 record.
Oddly enough, two of Solon’s wins took place against Aurora during the regular season. The Comets earned a pair of 4-3 victories against the Greenmen in Greater Cleveland High School Hockey League White South Division play. Both of those matches went down to the wire.
Round three wasn’t much different. There was one noticeable exception, though.
The grand finale of this epic trilogy favored green instead of navy blue.
"We didn’t think they should have beaten us twice," Sheridan said. "The last game was a power play. It cost us a goal with 15 seconds to go. The first game was really early in the year. By no means, did they outplay us.
"The last game, we had two major penalties, back to back. We had to kill eight straight minutes of penalties. That just drained us."
Not this time.
Trailing 2-1, Aurora scored three unanswered goals in a span of 11 minutes during the second and third periods, respectively, to take control. The Greenmen also deftly killed a Solon power play in the final period.
"That was huge," Sheridan said. "We also had a power play early in the third that helped."
The Comets did make things a bit nerve-racking for the fans in green when sophomore forward Christo Wu scored his second goal of the evening to cut Aurora’s lead to 4-3 with 2:54 remaining.
However, the Greenmen were able to keep the puck deep in Solon’s end late in the game, thanks to a penalty by the Comets with less than a minute left.
Aurora senior defenseman Patrick Murray put it away for good when he scored an empty-net goal from long range with 3.4 seconds left.
"It was a little scary there," Sheridan said. "We had a 4-2 lead and then they scored. We gutted it out and that’s what we had to do."
Freshman forward Zane Martin scored twice and added one assist for the Greenmen. Another freshman forward also had a stellar game on the offensive end for Aurora.
His name is Will Genovese, who had one goal and two assists.
Murray had two assists, as well, and sophomore forward Nathan Funk gave Aurora the lead (3-2) for good less than two minutes into the third period.
Senior defenseman Maxx Goldston and sophomore forward Mike Mancine each had an assist for the Greenmen, who had quite a few shots that went just wide of the goal.
That didn’t sit well with Sheridan, especially in a do-or-die situation that offers little margin for error.
"We’re the type of hockey team that has to finish," he said. "We’re going to get our opportunities, but we have trouble sometimes finishing. We had a couple open nets that we could have put it in. We just can’t finish."
Junior forward Josh Salisbury scored the other goal for Solon. He also had an assist.
Freshman forward Loukas Wu added two assists and senior defenseman Benji Golubitsky and freshman forward Cooper Frazier each had one assist for the Comets.
Senior Michael Nagy turned away 22 shots for Solon. Aurora junior goaltender Nolan Sullivan made 18 saves.
"Sullivan has been keeping us in games all year," Sheridan said. "He’s a kid who just learned how to skate two years ago. He got us our 17th win against a much tougher schedule."
Now that Sheridan got his "one" win, he’ll focus on the next digit that precedes the no-longer-significant "three." When it comes to his team’s future, Sheridan may consider E. Howard Hunt’s two rules before his team takes the ice again.
Especially the second rule.
"There are two rules for achieving everything," the late American intelligence officer and author once said. "Rule No. 1: Get started. Rule No. 2: Keep going."
"We haven’t won two games in a long time in this tournament," Sheridan said. "That would be a feather in our hat."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.