NIAGARA FALLS, NY — Niagara relied on its special forces Saturday at Dwyer Arena to pull out a 4-2 win over non-conference guest Army before a crowd of 1,155.
Sophomore Joe Tallari and freshman Barret Ehgoetz scored shorthanded, while senior Thomas Clayton scored on the power play for the Purple Eagles. The power-play goal was Niagara’s fourth of the weekend series.
“That gave us a big lift, getting those shorthanded goals,” Niagara coach Dave Burkholder said. “That was the difference in the game, no question. Thrilled with the effort. Guys played hard.”
Sophomore Nick Kormanyos also scored for the Purple Eagles (2-2), who beat the Black Knights in overtime Friday, 5-4.
The game proved to be a special affair indeed … a special teams affair. Army had 11 power plays, converting two, while NU went 1-for-7. Niagara was whistled for seven penalties in the second period, giving the Black Knights six power plays. Each team finished with 24 minutes in penalties.
“That’s the only negative that can come out of this weekend is losing the penalty game again for the fourth straight time,” Burkholder said. “There’s a definite pattern forming which is a little bit disheartening. I know we can get better in that area.”
The Eagles took several penalties in key situations last weekend during their road trip through Massachusetts. NU added undisciplined infractions to its resume Saturday. Niagara has been penalized 31 times in four games, but the Eagles have killed off 21-of-27 power plays.
“They’re a decent team, but if we played a top-notch team and took that many penalties then they’d really capitalize. It’d be a different ball game,” junior assistant captain Bernie Sigrist said. “I think we either got to become one of the best penalty-killing teams in the country or limit the penalties we take.”
Niagara outshot Army, 18-5, in the first period, but the Black Knights skated into the locker room with a 2-1 lead on the strength of power-play goals from freshman Chris Casey at 14:54 and senior Josh Morino at 16:27. NU opened the scoring when Tallari scored shorthanded off a Sigrist at 4:39. Sigrist beat the Army defense down the ice to collect an Andy Bozoian clearing pass. Sigrist picked up the puck in the left corner, skated behind the net and dished a feed in front to Tallari, who one-timed a shot into the left corner.
Casey scored off assists by Chris Garceau and Tim Murphy. Garceau skated along the NU blue line towards the right boards and whipped a pass to the left circle to a lonely Casey, who beat sophomore goalie Rob Bonk (15 saves). Morino scored on a point shot after receiving a blind feed from senior Joe Carpenter, who dug out the puck from behind the NU net. The Purple Eagles used their power play to tie it when Clayton deflected senior Scott Crawford’s shot between the pads of freshman netminder John Yaros at 4:26.
Niagara took the lead for good when Ehgoetz stuffed a Chris Welch pass from the right side past Yaros at 9:38.
“Their ‘D’ just kind of turned the puck over at the blue line and we just went down on a two-on-one and he just made a perfect pass. I couldn’t really miss. It just hit my stick and went into the net,” Ehgoetz said.
Said Army coach Rob Riley, “I think their speed was really the major difference in the weekend. We had our chances, but all in all for the weekend they had a lot more quality chances.”
Ehgoetz and Welch drew assists on NU’s insurance goal in the third period. Welch one-touched a pass to Kormanyos, who unleashed a wicked shot that flew over Yaros’ glove from just outside the left circle at 7:32.
The Purple Eagles outshot the Black Knights 39-17.
Niagara opens its College Hockey America schedule at Findlay on Friday.