SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Niagara entered Friday’s game against Mercyhurst looking to defend its Syracuse Invitational title, and the Purple Eagles successfully completed the first step in that defense by defeating Mercyhurst 4-1 on Friday night in front of a crowd of 374 at the Onondaga County War Memorial.
Niagara and Mercyhurst skated evenly for the first five minutes of the contest. However, that all changed when Ryan Gale found the puck on his stick after a Chris Welch shot bounced off Mercyhurst goaltender Peter Aubry’s left pad. Gale was able to stick home the rebound to give Niagara the 1-0 lead at the 5:09 mark of the first period.
From that point onward Niagara controlled the flow of the game, and Aubry would do his best to keep his team in the game. Niagara netted its second goal when Rand Harris put a one-timer past Aubry from the left side of the crease off the stick of Niagara freshman sensation Barret Ehgoetz. That goal came at the 17:22 mark of the first period.
The Lakers generated solid scoring chances in the secon period, but Niagara goaltender Rob Bonk played well, allowing only one goal while making 21 saves for the contest
Niagara got a lone second-period goal, from Rob Bumbaco off a pass from Gale to increase the Niagara lead to 3-0. The Purple Eagles looked to be in complete control of the game until Mercyhurst scored on a nice individual effort by P.J. Hiscock, who beat Bonk when the Niagara netminder hesitated for a second while deciding whether to poke-check a loose puck or to cover it up.
That late second-period goal gave Mercyhurst a spark, but Niagara responded with a solid third, reeling off 16 shots. Aubry was up to the challenge as he turned away all of Niagara’s shots, and the lone goal of the period came at 19:29 when Randy Harris scored his second goal of the game, with Aubry on the Mercyhurst bench.
The Purple Eagles improved to 9-4-0 overall and advanced to Saturday’s championship game against Merrimack, which defeated Colgate 9-5 in their first-round matchup.