College Hockey:
Power Play Comes Alive for Niagara

— Niagara scored almost a season’s worth of power-play goals during its 7-2 win over non-conference foe Bowling Green at Dwyer Arena on Saturday.

The Purple Eagles recorded three goals on eight chances with the man advantage, scoring twice in a span of 2:43 in the second period to turn a close game into a rout. Niagara entered the game with four power-play goals on 86 chances.

The Eagles led the NCAA in power-play percentage (27.8) last year, but that team had tons of experienced veterans. Only two regulars on that power-play unit are back, junior John Heffernan and senior Timo Makela.

“We were pretty good boys the first semester and we asked Santa Claus for a little puck luck on the power play and he delivered,” quipped Purple Eagles coach Blaise MacDonald.

On a serious note, MacDonald said a half-hour video session two days ago helped the coaching staff reinforce in the players what the team was trying to accomplish on the power play.

“The guys did a great job of getting to space and then moving the puck quickly,” MacDonald said. “If we can get the power play going, that’s going to be the difference in a lot of games for us.”

“Really, I thought we wanted it more than they did. We won loose pucks and buried our chances,” said Heffernan, whose power-play goal at 10:00 of the second period gave Niagara a 4-1 lead.

Freshman Rob Bumbaco scored the first two goals of his career and added an assist for the Eagles (7-9-3), while junior Thomas Clayton finished with a goal and two assists. Freshman Hannu Karru scored his team-leading ninth goal of the season, while Chris Sebastian and Joe Tallari also scored.

Defensemen Scott Crawford and Mike Bozoian each recorded two assists. Freshman forward Nick Kormanyos also finished with two assists.

Freshman goalie Rob Bonk made 22 saves and recorded his first career assist as Niagara ended a two-game losing streak and won for the sixth time in eight games. Bonk improved his record to 7-6-2.

Bowling Green, which was coming off a 3-1 win at Mercyhurst last Thursday, fell to 4-10-4. The Falcons, members of the CCHA, received goals from Greg Day and Ryan Murphy.

Karru scored 45 seconds into the game, redirecting a Heffernan feed past Bowling Green goalie Shawn Timm. Bumbaco fired in a rebound of a Shaun Burkart shot at 5:49 to give NU a 2-0 lead. Burkart made the play happen with his speed as he grabbed a loose puck at the Niagara blue line, darted down the left wing and cut across to the right side of the Falcons’ blue line where he fired a low, hard shot that Timm could not control.

Day scored on the power play at 5:22 of the second period to pull the guests within a goal.

Sebastian quelled the Falcons’ momentum by giving Niagara a 3-1 lead at 7:54, scoring on a wraparound one second after his team’s power play expired.

That almost power-play goal opened the flood gates as the Eagles’ scored their next three goals on the power play. Heffernan scored off assists from Timo Makela and Bozoian. Bumbaco followed with another at 12:43 on a play started by Bonk. Bonk fired a pass up the right side to Crawford, who fed Bumbaco. Bumbaco streaked to the right face-off circle during the 3-on-2 break and rifled a shot over Timm’s glove.

That was Niagara’s 15th shot of the game and the last for Timm, who was relieved by sophomore Tyler Masters. Timm, a senior playing his third game of the season, fell to 0-2-1.

Tallari scored the Eagles? final power-play goal at 3:59 of the third period.

“It’s not really things they were doing on the power play. They shot the puck and it went into the net,” Bowling Green coach Buddy Powers said.

Niagara outshot the Falcons 29-24 and killed off 7-of-8 power plays. The Purple Eagles return to action in College Hockey America at 7 p.m. Friday against Bemidji State at Dwyer Arena.

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