DETROIT — Niagara thought Wayne State should have won and Wayne State thought Niagara deserved to win. But the scoreboard had the final say.
In an intense College Hockey America contest, the visiting Purple Eagles (5-2-0, 3-1-0 CHAW) downed the hometown Warriors, 2-1. But if you came late to the game, you missed it.
“I won’t lie,” Niagara head coach Margot Page said. “We weren’t focused for the first part of the game. But I’ll always take a win, especially a conference game on the road. I thought Wayne State should have won this game.”
Freshman Jessica Haydahl scored her first collegiate goal at 4:59 of the first period to give WSU (3-4-0, 0-2-0 CHAW) an early lead. During a scrum in front of Niagara goalie Jennifer Mascaro, Kim Spaulding got the puck to Haydahl, who went top-shelf on the screened netminder.
Niagara caught a lucky break on its first goal. Senior Candice Ceelen knotted the score at 12:34. A Wayne State defender got the puck in her skates and couldn’t find it, but Ceelen did and beat goalie Anna VanderMarliere stick-side for her second goal on the season. Senior captain Valerie Hall drew the lone assist on the play.
“We’ve been in all our games this season,” said Wayne State head coach Tom O’Malley. “And that’s all good and well, but we should be winning these games.”
Purple Eagles’ senior Jennifer Goulet scored the eventual game-winner at the 15:46 mark. Parked wide-open to VanderMarliere’s left, Goulet one-timed a pass from behind the net by Theresa Marchese-Del Monte for her fifth goal this year.
Neither team could score in the second and third periods, even with VanderMarliere out for an extra skater in the final minute of the third.
Mascaro finished with 15 saves while VanderMarliere stopped 20 shots.
“Wayne State came out and caught us flat-footed in the first period, but then we got our wheels back late in the first,” said Page. “In the second and third, (Wayne State) was all over us. We know we can play better and the girls know they have to if they want to get back in the national top 10 rankings. But to do that, we can’t slack. We have to work hard.”
O’Malley said that if this game had happened a year or two ago, his attitude might have been different.
“We won’t take a moral victory out of this,” said O’Malley. “Maybe last year we would have, but the time has come where we have to turn moral victories into the kind of victories that count in the standings. Tonight, we had plenty of opportunities, we just didn’t capitalize.”
Wayne State went 0-for-5 with the man-advantage, while killing off Niagara’s three power-play opportunities.
The Warriors return to action next Wednesday at Findlay while Niagara hosts Boston College on Sunday afternoon.