BUFFALO, N.Y. — Freshman Barret Eghoetz’s two goals best epitomized the effort by Niagara on Friday night.
Eghoetz drove hard to the net on both of his goals, outworking backcheckers and stretching to re-direct pucks into the net. The Kincardine, Ont., native also played a solid all-around game in sparking the Purple Eagles to a 7-2 win over Western New York rival Canisius in the Punch Imlach College Hockey Showcase.
“Those goals, that’s what our team is all about. We had a couple nice goals, but when we’re successful, we’re getting pucks to the net, getting ugly goals, that’s just how we win hockey games,” said Eghoetz, who has nine goals and 19 points.
No matter what happens the rest of the season, there’s one question Niagara’s players won’t have to answer during the offseason: Why didn’t you beat Canisius?
That’s because the Purple Eagles youngsters dominated and pretty much demoralized a veteran Griffs squad before 4,314 at HSBC Arena.
Sophomore Joe Tallari finished with two goals and two assists and classmate Rob Bonk returned from a groin injury to make 27 saves — giving the Eagles a much needed quality goaltending performance.
Sophomore Nick Kormanyos added a goal and two assists and classmate Rob Bumbaco also scored for the winners.
“They’re the guys of the future,” said senior assistant captain John Heffernan, who finished with a goal and an assist. “They’re going to have to carry this team. Next year and the year after is going to be Niagara’s year to make a run and go as far as they can. Guys like Joe, Barret, Rob Bonk, Hannu Karru and Nick Kormanyos — those are the guys that are going to take them there and they showed why today.”
The win by Niagara (14-8) snapped Canisius’ two-game winning streak in the heated rivalry. The sixth-year Eagles improved to 6-3 all-time against the Griffs.
David Deeves and Mike Ferry scored for Canisius (8-7-2).
Two years ago, a miraculous 58-save effort by Griffs goalie Sean Weaver toppled Niagara. Last year, Canisius simply wanted to win more — something that did not sit too well in the bellies of NU’s players.
That did not happen Friday as Niagara used its speed to generate scoring chances, fought its way through checks and played with hunger.
“It’s gratifying, finally getting what we deserved,” first-year head coach Dave Burkholder said. “I just thought we were the better team. I’m very proud of our team.”
Eghoetz’s second goal was all determination. With NU leading 5-2, he outworked backchecker Paul DiPasquale, stretched and deflected a Kormanyos pass into the net with 12:34 left.
This was the first time these two teams squared off against each other in the home of the Buffalo Sabres. Playing the game at HSBC Arena instead of the Amherst Pepsi Center proved to be advantagous to the speedy Eagles.
“The good part about the Pepsi Center was that it’s a smaller ice surface and the people make it seem even smaller,” Griffs coach Brian Cavanaugh said. “That works to our advantage, no question about it. This rink even seems bigger than the 200 by 85 ice surface simply because of the seats and the dome effect.”
Deeves redirected Joe D’Urzo’s point shot to open the scoring at 10:49.
Niagara replied with three goals in 1:56, scoring three goals on four shots to seize control.
Tallari tied it with his 12th of the season at 16:50, finishing off a three-on-one rush by deking Weaver after receiving a pretty behind the back feed by Karru.
Bumbaco scored 28 seconds later off a behind-the-back feed by Tallari. Karru intercepted a breakout pass in the right corner, dished to Tallari who quickly fed Bumbaco, who deked a helpless Weaver.
Kormanyos made it 3-1 off an assist by Eghoetz at 18:46.
Canisius had a chance to pull within a goal seconds later, but Bonk stopped Chris Duggan on a breakaway.
Niagara made it 4-1 at 9:06 of the second period when Eghoetz drove to the net and jammed in the rebound of Kormanyos’ shot from the right wing. Canisius pulled within 4-2 during a five-minute power play when Ferry one-timed a pass from Brad Kenny at 13:59.
That was all the Griffs mustered against Bonk, who missed Niagara’s last three games because of a groin injury. He made 10 saves in the second period and added another 10 in the third. Several of those saves were of the spectacular variety. Bonk, a game-time decision to start, only participated in two practices this week.
“Timing is everything in goaltending,” said Burkholder, a former All-American goalie at RIT. “We were carrying the play in the second period. They came down and had a couple of opportunities, he made a couple of huge saves to keep us in it.”
NU held a 36-29 edge in shots and scored on 3-of-7 power plays. Canisius converted 2-of-6 power-play chances.
“We didn’t play to our game plan and it cost us,” Deeves said.