LEWISTON, N.Y. — Niagara goalie Rob Bonk made 28 saves, several of the spectacular variety, to help the Purple Eagles defeat Princeton 4-2 Friday night at Dwyer Arena.
The win was Niagara’s fifth in a row after opening the season with two defeats.
Joe Tallari, John Heffernan and Nick Kormanyos (two goals) provided the offense for the Purple Eagles in a fast-paced, hard-hitting nonconference game played before 1,228 fans. The teams meet again at 7 p.m. Saturday at Dwyer Arena.
George Parros and David Schneider scored in the third period for the Tigers of Princeton, who were opening the regular season.
Bonk’s biggest stop did not come in the third period. It came with 4:33 left in the first as the 6-foot-4 sophomore robbed Parros on a one-timed shot off a feed from Brad Parsons. Bonk did a sliding butterfly and trapped the puck between his left arm and ribs. A blown assignment on a three-on-two rush left Parros wide open inside the right hashmarks.
“That’s the save right there. We’re such a young and fragile team that if they bury one early, maybe it’s a different ballgame,” first-year NU coach Dave Burkholder said.
“I just wanted to get over there quick and take up as much net as possible,” Bonk said. “It’s one of those things where you can put yourself in position and then get a little bit lucky. I think the first goal is really important in college hockey, so it was big keeping it 0-0. It just gives me confidence and that was important, too.”
Niagara fed off that momentum and broke the scoreless tie 35 seconds later as Tallari finished off a three-on-two rush. Tallari took a drop pass inside the Princeton blue line from Hannu Karru and rifled a shot — while falling to the ice — past the glove of senior goalie Dave Stathos.
Niagara outshot Princeton 12-8 in the opening period and 35-30 overall. Heffernan scored on the power play at 2:47 of the second period, one-timing a Scott Crawford pass from the left circle into the net.
The Tigers found their legs midway through the period and peppered Bonk, but he frustrated the guests every time. Bonk made 22 saves through 40 minutes.
“Bonk played terrific,” Princeton coach Len Quesnelle said. “He’s a good goaltender. He fills the net. He’s tough to beat. There were times I thought we could’ve used a little more poise and patience around the net.”
Kormanyos scored 23 seconds into the third period, whacking in the rebound of a point shot by Crawford.
Princeton ended Bonk’s shutout bid 5:00 into the third when Parros scored off a feed from Parsons. The Tigers’ Schneider struck for a power-play goal at 10:52 to make things interesting, but Kormanyos added an empty-net goal with 15 seconds left.
“We had our best legs and our best jumps in the first two periods and then, quite frankly, they were the better team in the third,” Burkholder said. “Again, we have to learn we can’t take shifts off.”
Crawford and sophomore defenseman Dave Hominuk finished with two assists each for Niagara, while Parsons finished with two assists for Princeton.