LEWISTON, N.Y. — Who was that masked man between the pipes for Niagara on Saturday night?
It was none other than freshman netminder Scott Lindsay. Remember him?
The 6-foot, Hamilton, Ontario, native has seen more action opening and closing the door on the Niagara bench lately than ice time, what with fellow classmate Rob Bonk seizing the starting job. Yet, with Bonk getting the night off to rest his sore groin, Lindsay started for the first time in nine games and backstopped the Purple Eagles to a 3-1 win over Bemidji State in a College Hockey America contest at Dwyer Arena.
The 21-year-old saved his team’s bacon on several occasions, earning his first collegiate win. Lindsay finished with 21 saves as Niagara won its third straight game and reached the .500 mark for the first time. The Purple Eagles improved to 9-9-3 overall, 6-1-1 in the CHA.
“The nice thing about what Scott Lindsay did is that he was able to transfer his good practice habits and his good attitude into a game situation, which is particularly difficult given the fact he hasn’t played in many games and this was a big game for us,” Eagles coach Blaise MacDonald said. “It’s nice to know that a guy like Scott Lindsay can step in and give us the momentum and the trust that we can beat anybody. Without Scott Lindsay, we have no chance tonight.”
Lindsay had been riding the bench since getting pulled from a Nov. 17 game at Alabama-Huntsville. He yielded four goals on 13 shots in that game.
“I had a lot of fun out there tonight. The ‘D’ was letting me have the first shot and clearing out the rebounds,” said Lindsay, who improved to 1-3-1. “It’s a relief to get into the net finally and show that I can play. I left on a sour note. I wanted to prove myself.”
Sophomores Mike Bozoian and Bernie Sigrist scored special teams goals for Niagara, while senior Darwin Murray scored into the empty net with just 1:18 left in the game. The Eagles swept the two-game weekend series from the Beavers and padded their lead in the CHA standings. Niagara leads the conference with 13 points. Alabama-Huntsville trails the Eagles in the standings by three points.
Niagara won for the eighth time in 10 games, but did not play its best hockey.
“We absolutely, positively were pathetic tonight,” MacDonald said. “Those weren’t quite the words I used to the team after the game because this is going to be read by young children. We reverted back to some immature preparation habits and it was a very disappointing game overall. Our defensemen, as a unit of six guys, have got to play better. We were absolutely destroyed and dominated down low.”
Bemidji, the CHA preseason favorite, fell to 1-8 in the conference and 1-19-1 overall. The Beavers, who have no seniors and dress only four juniors, have lost 12 games by two or fewer goals this year.
“That’s the amazing part, how hard we work even though our record is as it is,” longtime coach Bob Peters said. “We’re building for the future. We worked well tonight. We put out a great effort.”
Bemidji opened the scoring at 15:30 of the first period as Travis Barnes deflected Stefan Anderson’s screen shot past Lindsay.
Niagara tied things at 6:03 of the second period on the power play when Bozoian fired a shot from the point that skipped into the net off the blocker of Beavers goalie Grady Hunt.
Sigrist scored the game winner four minutes later shorthanded. Chris Sebastian made the goal happen by stripping the puck from a Bemidji defenseman in the Niagara zone, sprinting into the Beavers zone and firing a shot on Hunt while being checked to the ice. Sigrist, trailing on the play, gathered the loose puck and shot it into the net over the sprawled Hunt (25 saves).
“Chris with his speed was able to break it to the net and made a nice move on the goalie … and the puck was just sitting there for myself,” said Sigrist, who recorded his fifth goal of the season. “Mentally we weren’t really focused. I guess because of yesterday’s game we thought we’d just come in here and show up and win. Luckily enough, Scott Lindsay stepped up for us and really won the game for us.”
Lindsay preserved the lead by making several spectacular saves. He robbed Says Phrakonkham during a 2-on-1 break with 13:09 left in the third period. Phrakonkham carried the puck down the right wing and cut across to the middle and rifled a hard shot that was turned aside. Lindsay also stoned Marty Goulet’s back-door chance with the two-pad slide to the left post with 8:21 left. That proved to be the Beavers’ last great scoring chance.
“I read it. I thought the ‘D’ would have it, but when it [the pass] slid underneath the stick, then I got across as quick as I could. [I] went feet first and got a piece of it,” Lindsay said.
The Eagles conclude their five-game homestand Friday and Saturday against CHA foe Wayne State. Both games are scheduled for 7 p.m.
Niagara outshot Bemidji, 28-22, and improved to 5-0-1 lifetime against its CHA rival.