FRASER, Mich. — In a game with major College Hockey America playoff implications, Wayne State rallied past Niagara on sophomore Dusty Kingston’s goal 76 seconds into overtime at the Great Lakes Sports City.
The Warriors (15-14-3, 7-9-3 CHA) can finish no higher than third in the CHA and no lower than fifth. Niagara (13-16-5, 10-5-3 CHA) has already clinched the second spot.
WSU sophomore co-captain Jason Durbin started the scoring at the 17:44 mark of the first period on a Wayne State power play. Parked to Niagara goaltender Scott Lindsay’s right, Durbin stuffed a feed from Kingston through Lindsay’s pads for his 15th goal of the season. Freshman Chris Vail also drew an assist.
That would be all the scoring in the first 20 minutes, as sophomore David Guerrera was solid in the WSU net.
Kingston gave the Warriors a two-goal cushion at 4:31 of the second frame. Sophomore Brent Renfrew found Kingston streaking down the middle and hit him with a tape-to-tape pass that Kingston put past Lindsay on a breakaway from the Purple Eagles’ blue line. Durbin was given the second assist on Kingston’s 15th of the season.
Niagara got on the board at 17:14 when freshman Andrew Nahirniak scored his first collegiate goal on a power play. Sophomores Bernie Sigrist and Chris Sebastian assisted to cut the Wayne State lead to 2-1.
The lead would stay intact until the 1:07 mark of the third period, when freshman Paul Muniz scored his first collegiate goal in a pileup in front of Guerrera to tie the contest at two. Junior John Heffernan and freshman Joe Tallari drew the helpers.
But sophomore Dan Rafner restored the Warriors’ one-goal lead a little more than four minutes later at 5:08. Rafner took a pass in the slot from freshman Jack Redwood and beat Lindsay up high for his sixth goal on the year. Vail registered the second assist.
The Purple Eagles came right back as freshman Chris Welch beat Guerrera from in tight for his 11th goal of the season at 12:21. Junior Thomas Clayton and freshman Nick Kormanyos added the assists.
For the remaining time in regulation, each goalie was spectacular and the game was decided in the extra session.
On the game-winner, Kingston fought through the Niagara defense and was stopped once by Lindsay, but knocked in the rebound for his 16th goal of the year at the 1:16 mark. Durbin and freshman Marc St. Jean assisted on the dramatic goal by WSU’s goalscoring leader.
“We needed the win,” said Wayne State head coach Bill Wilkinson. “A win like that gives our kids incentive to go out and beat them tomorrow night. It’s also a positive step for us heading into the tournament next week.”
Perhaps WSU assistant coach Danny Brooks summed up the victory best in a glowing locker room after the game.
“It just doesn’t get much better than that.”