TROY, N.Y. — Rob Bumbaco was inserted into the lineup for the Niagara Purple Eagles to shake things up, and with the performance that he gave against Quinnipiac in the consolation game of the Rensselaer/HSBC Holiday Hockey Tournament, he could be playing some more.
Bumbaco tallied the hat trick, scoring three of the last four goals for the Purple Eagles as they hung on to win a scorefest, 7-6.
On four separate occasions, the Purple Eagles trailed Quinnipiac, but each time came back to tie it before scoring four consecutive times to take the lead and hang on as Quinnipiac made a valiant comeback.
“Yesterday we were a little bit flat at times,” said Purple Eagle coach Dave Burkholder. “Today, we faced some adversity, we were a little beat up, and we were down four times and fought back, so that shows a lot of character in that locker room.
“I thought we were the faster team tonight — we cycled well down low and we generated quite a bit of offense. I didn’t think we would need seven goals to win, but it was one of those games where the last shot wins.”
Bumbaco got the Purple Eagles even in the second period at four goals apiece as he blasted one through a screen past Jamie Holden, who had replaced Justin Eddy in the Quinnipiac net. Just 33 seconds later, Matt Ryan found the net as well and Eddy was put back in.
“Both guys were really sick, so I split up the goaltending to see if I could get some mileage out of them, but we just really didn’t play well in front of those guys tonight,” said Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold.
Bumbaco then scored the next two goals in the third period to give Niagara the 7-4 lead.
“He had a lot of energy and he’s got some sneaky offensive skills; he was Johnny-on-the-spot,” said Burkholder. “His line changed the momentum of the game in the second period. Rob is a finisher and he has great hands.”
Quinnipiac made it close late in the third when Ryan Morton and Neil Breen scored to make it 7-6, but with only 16 seconds left on the clock after Breen’s score, it wasn’t enough to force an overtime.
“We did well offensively, but the guys just didn’t have any legs, and defensively the guys were tired,” said Pecknold. “I’m really disappointed in what I thought was a big character test, and we just didn’t have enough guys digging. But we’ll take the positives out of this weekend. We scored 10 goals against two pretty good hockey teams.”
The teams traded goals through the first half of the game, Quinnipiac first when Matt Froehlich scored on the power play, then matched by John Heffernan’s power-play goal for Niagara.
Ryan Olson made it 2-1 Quinnipiac, Chris Sebastian’s power-play goal tied it before Tyler Dufour scored to end the first 3-2.
In the second period Paul Muniz tied it at three apiece before Breen made it 4-3, and then Bumbaco took over and helped Ryan MacNeil to his first collegiate victory in the nets.
“It wasn’t a great weekend for him, but he hasn’t played in two months either,” said Burkholder. “He got hurt in his first start, so he’s been off, but he’s going to have a great career here and I’m happy he got his first one.”
Quinnipiac (7-8-1) will travel to Michigan State for a pair next weekend.
“We can take things from our RPI performance,” said Pecknold. “Tonight we were really sloppy, we weren’t picking up our men and jumping in. We made mistakes and we can watch the tape and learn from that.”
Niagara (13-8-0) will take on Canisius in the Punch Imlach Classic in eight days.
“Unfortunately, we’re on another eight-day break and then we play Canisius and we’re beat up,” said Burkholder. “Our two most valuable players are out, in our leading scorer and captain.”