LEWISTON, N.Y. — Niagara played a lot better defensively against Wayne State at Dwyer Arena on Saturday.
The Purple Eagles were not perfect, however, as key defensive breakdowns played a role in a 4-3 defeat to their CHA foe before 1,076 fans.
Dustin Kingston’s third goal of the game with 39.7 seconds left served as the winner for the Warriors (12-10-1, 4-5-1 CHA), who became the first CHA team to sweep a two-game series from Niagara.
“I thought Wayne State played great. I like their team,” Niagara coach Blaise MacDonald said. “They’re a good team, but we’re playing at home with a zero sense of pride and they took it to us [Friday night] and they took it to us in the first period [Saturday night]. We don’t have a lot of pride and competitiveness in our locker room. We can be a very passive team.”
Brent Renfrew also scored for Wayne State, while sophomore goalie Marc Carlson made 31 saves. Keith Stanich had three assists, while Tyler Kindle added two.
The winning goal came moments after Thomas Clayton’s power-play goal tied the game for the Purple Eagles.
“We didn’t come in here thinking we were going to take four points away from them. We were more than pleased with the outcomes,” Wayne State coach Bill Wilkinson said. “I think it was kind of poetic justice. We got the penalty on [Nick] Shrader, which was kind of a questionable call. The game was a one-goal game at that point and they end up getting a tip off of a point shot that we didn’t block.”
Rob Bumbaco and John Heffernan also scored for the Eagles (9-11-3, 6-3-1), while Randy Harris finished with two assists. Niagara began the weekend series on a three-game winning streak, but had that snapped in a 9-6 loss to the Warriors on Friday night.
A miscommunication during an up-ice rush closed the shooting lane and resulted in Niagara turning the puck over at the Wayne State blue line. The Warriors quickly turned the other way for the 2-on-1 break.
Stanich drove to the net, drawing over the NU defenseman and providing a screen in the process. Kingston snapped a shot from the dot of the right face-off circle over the glove of NU goalie Rob Bonk.
“I was waiting for Stanich to skate by me and wait for him to get by and then I just shot,” said Kingston, who leads the Warriors with 12 goals and 20 points. “We’ve been practicing going down the wall, pulling up and then taking a quick shot from the side. It’s kind of a planned play.”
“[Scott] Crawford had it coming over the red line, a little miscommunication between him and [Chris] Sebastian and we’re unable to dump it and they just transitioned it and scored and just killed us,” Eagles sophomore Bernie Sigrist said. “They really broke our spines.”
Kingston broke a 2-2 tie early in the third period when he fired the rebound of Stanich’s shot into the net on the power play at 3:49. The Warriors, who were outshot 12-3 in the final 20 minutes and 34-16 for the game, finished with two power-play goals and one shorthanded goal.
“Well, you get what you deserve. I truly believe that and things happen for a reason,” MacDonald said. “It’s been painfully obvious that our inconsistency on the ice and off the ice has led us to situations like tonight where for 40 minutes we out play a team, but we dug ourselves a big hole. When we have all the momentum in the world going, we take a ridiculous penalty and they score to make it 3-2. Now we’re in the hole again.”
Clayton tipped in Harris’ shot at 16:58 to tie things. The play resulted from a gritty effort by junior captain Crawford. The defenseman dove to knock down a clearing attempt by Wayne State about 15 seconds before the Eagles scored and slowed the puck enough for Harris to rip it into the corner and keep the play in the Warriors’ zone.
Wayne State opened the scoring on the power play at 2:54 as Stanich’s screen shot from the point was tipped into the net by Renfrew. A miscommunication between Bonk and defenseman Timo Makela produced the Warriors’ second goal.
Bonk tried to headman the puck to Makela, but the senior captain missed the pass and it was intercepted by Jason Durbin at the NU blue line. Durbin dished a pass during the 2-on-1 break to Kingston, who rifled a shot into the top left corner at 6:31.
“He’s got great speed,” Wilkinson said. “He scored some goals off the rush. If he can get himself a little bit more physically stronger, he’s going to potentially have a chance to play at an upper level after college.”
Niagara pulled within a goal at 5:39 of the second period as Bumbaco roofed a shot over the glove of Carlson after a strong rush and nifty pass by Harris.
The Eagles tied the game on the power play at 12:11 on Heffernan’s fifth goal of the season. Crawford fired a sharp-angle shot from the right wing that was redirected to Heffernan for the back-door goal. Sigrist also drew an assist on the goal.
The Eagles finished 2-for-4 on the power play and killed off 4-of-6 Wayne State power plays.
Niagara returns to action at 7 p.m. Sunday at Boston University in a non-conference test. That game will serve as a homecoming of sorts for MacDonald and assistant Kenny Rausch. MacDonald served as associate head coach of the Terriers from 1990 to 1995. He coached Rausch from 1991 to 1995. They won a national championship with BU in 1995.
Rausch played in three Frozen Fours with the Terriers and was behind the bench as an assistant when BU lost in the national championship game to North Dakota in 1997.