LEWISTON, N.Y. — After Friday night’s 5-2 loss to Wayne State, Niagara senior captain Scott Crawford said that he was “sick and tired of having to go through this every time we play them.”
“This” continued Saturday as the Purple Eagles fell 3-1 to the visitors from Detroit in front of 1,006 at Dwyer Arena.
Coinciding with Bemidji State and Air Force battling to a 2-2 tie, the Warriors are now alone in first place in the College Hockey America standings with a 10-2-2 CHA record. WSU is 14-11-3 overall.
Jack Redwood got Wayne State on the board just 67 seconds into the game. Chris Vail won a battle for the puck along the left wing boards and centered the puck to a streaking Redwood, who made one move and then picked the top corner over NU goalie Rob Bonk for his eighth goal of the year.
Vail made it 2-0 at 2:57. A WSU defenseman put a weak shot on goal that was picked off by a Purple Eagles defenseman. Vail intercepted the clearing pass and walked in on Bonk untouched for his seventh goal.
The line of Vail, Redwood and Max Starchenko was the most dominant line all weekend, according to WSU head coach Bill Wilkinson. The line accounted for five of the Warriors’ eight goals over the weekend.
“That line, I thought, really gave us a lot of burst against Niagara,” Wilkinson said. “They helped us get the early lead and I think when you get a lead that quick it deflates the other team.”
Ryan Gale made it 2-1 when he beat WSU netminder David Guerrera at the 10:51 mark. Gale went to the net with his stick on the ice and was rewarded with a perfect pass from Chris Welch from down low. The goal was Gale’s third of the year.
Nathan Rosychuk padded the WSU lead on a power play midway through the second period. Tyler Kindle’s shot from the point was blocked, but the puck pinballed to Rosychuk at the side of the net for the easy tap-in. It was Rosychuk’s eighth goal of the season.
That would be all the scoring as the Warriors effectively clogged the neutral zone and seemingly won every battle along the boards, especially in the third period.
“I don’t think there’s one person in our locker room who can seriously be happy with that effort,” Niagara head coach Dave Burkholder said. “You play how you practice and this weekend we had two poor practices. They just frustrated us two nights in a row.”
Wilkinson said that even though NU has faltered as of late, the Purple Eagles are still a formidable opponent.
“We did what we had to do out there,” Wilkinson said. “We didn’t let them get any momentum going and we took away their speed. We didn’t use any what I call cute little plays. We needed to bear down, play with more intensity and keep them down and that’s exactly what we did.”
The Warriors play a home-and-home set next weekend with Findlay starting Friday in northern Ohio. Niagara (15-13-0, 6-7-0 CHA) plays two against Bemidji State Thursday and Friday night at Dwyer Arena.