SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Colgate’s hopes of repeating as Syracuse Invitational Tournament champion were dashed as Niagara scored three goals in the third period and freshman goaltender Rob Bonk made 36 saves to lead the Purple Eagles to a 4-2 victory Saturday night.
“[Bonk] made the saves he had to; he was very good on the first shot,” said Niagara coach Blaise MacDonald. “That gives our team a lot of confidence that he’s gonna make that first save. He was solid, especially on the penalty kill.
“We were in the penalty box a lot in the third period, and that takes out a lot of momentum, especially for a young team. That’s when you need your goaltender to step up.”
Niagara (3-7-3) started the scoring in the first period when freshman Joe Tallari came through 6:57 into the first period. Tallari took a pass at the top of the right faceoff circle from teammate Timo Makela and beat goaltender Jason LeFevre glove-side for a 1-0 lead.
Colgate would answer at the 16:27 mark with a goal from Chad MacDonald. The Red Raiders had the puck down in front of Bonk, and as Niagara returned to full strength Etienne Morin took a shot down low against Bonk. Bonk made the save, but after a few rebound attempts by Morin the puck found it way behind Bonk and MacDonald was there to put it home, knotting the game at one.
After a scoreless second period, Niagara once again took the lead just 2:20 into the third. Chris Sebastian of the Purple Eagles received a pass from Shaun Burkart at the blue line and skated into the Colgate zone untouched. The ensuing shot — from Sebastian at the top of the right faceoff circle — LeFevre could not stop, making the score 2-1.
Niagara’s third goal of the game came just moments later, as Nick Kormanyos skated towards the net with a defender in front of him and took the shot. The rebound came out to the left of LeFevre, who could not recover in time to stop Kormanyos’s second shot, giving Niagara a 3-1 lead.
“We came out sluggish in the beginning of the third period, and that cost us two goals,” said coach Don Vaughan. “You can’t let your guard down for a minute. Every time we’ve made a mistake this year, its killed us.”
As the period wore on, Colgate picked it up in an attempt to get back into the contest, and after a couple of Niagara penalties, Colgate picked up its second goal of the game on the power play. With a crowd in front of the net and Bonk down on the ice, Mike O’Malley got the unassisted goal to cut it to a 3-2 Niagara lead.
Colgate then pulled LeFevre in favor of a sixth attacker, but Niagara capitalized on the opportunity for an empty-net tally, sealing the victory.
Niagara was 0-for-3 with the man advantage, while Colgate went 1-for-8. Bonk had 36 saves, while LeFevre made 17 stops.
Niagara will take on Cornell in the championship of the Syracuse Invitational, while Colgate will face Clarkson in the consolation Sunday.