HAMILTON, N.Y. — After neither team managed to gain an advantage through two periods, Colgate defenseman Joey Mormina buried the only goal of the third period past Niagara’s Jeff VanNynatten to lead the Raiders to a 2-1 victory Thursday night.
Colgate netminder David Cann stopped 25 shots en route to his second win on the year. His key saves proved to be the difference in the tight battle between the two non-conference foes.
“David made a huge save on the power play, and then another on a wraparound chance to keep us up a goal,” said Raider head coach Don Vaughan. “That’s all we can ask from David. I think that the 7-1 loss to Harvard was a little unfortunate for him. He had shutout hockey going for half of that game and then the wheels came off and we didn’t give him a whole lot of help. So in my opinion he’s put together three pretty good games for us in a row.”
Cann’s counterpart played well between the pipes for the Purple Eagles as well, VanNynatten made 26 saves including stoning a pair of breakaway chances.
“I thought that Jeff was definitely one of our bright spots,” said Niagara head coach Dave Burkholder of his freshman goalie. “I thought he played very well. Unfortunately, through traffic, that slapper found its way through. Maybe he could have been at the top of the crease, but it’s a tough screen shot. Jeff gave us a chance to win.”
After a scoreless first period, Niagara got on the board when freshman Jason Williamson banged home a rebound shot for his first career goal.
“Jason has played great,” said Burkholder. “He’s a very physical guy which I think compliments Barret [Ehgoetz] and Joe [Tallari] really well. But he’s a guy who will stand around the cage and try to get ugly goals, and he was rewarded tonight.”
The Purple Eagles top line once again produced their only goal on the night, though NCAA point leader Tallari was held scoreless by a heads-up defensive effort by the home team.
“Neutralizing Niagara’s top line was a priority for us,” said Vaughan. “That is a dangerous line, and I have a lot of respect for them. Tallari’s a great player. He got wound up a couple of times, but for the most part I think we did a pretty good job of containing him.”
Said Burkholder, “Our top line played very well again tonight. Every time they are on the ice, something good happened. Tonight was a night where we didn’t have any shots on goal outside of our top line. That has to change. These guys maybe need to do some soul searching. We’re a one line hockey team, and everyone in the country knows it.”
After dominating the majority of the second period, Niagara surrendered a power play goal with less than a minute remaining in the frame. Adam Mitchell’s gritty rebound effort resulted in only the third power play goal allowed by the Purple Eagles in their last 25 shorthanded situations.
“I was really pleased with the type of goal that it was,” said Vaughan. “Adam stuck around in front, and he certainly got us started. That was a big goal for us, and I think we came out and dominated the first six minutes of the next period, generating four or five grade ‘A’ chances.”
Niagara failed to generate many chances in the third period, as they seemed to be out of energy after a long and grueling week.
“That’s our third game in six days,” said Burkholder. “On top of that, we had to sleep in the Pittsburgh airport on Sunday night. So as the game wore on, I just thought we didn’t have any energy left. We looked like a tired team, and that’s not Niagara hockey. We’ve been a very upbeat, physical, fun-to-watch team, and that wasn’t a great effort tonight.”
While it wasn’t pretty, the Raiders (6-7-1, 2-4-0 ECAC) picked up a crucial victory as their see-saw season tilted in a positive direction.
“It was a good win for us, obviously,” said Vaughan. “I think we are going to have to win games in that fashion. They’re going to be low scoring affairs, and we are going to have to play well defensively. I thought we did that tonight.”
The Purple Eagles (4-11-1, 1-2-1 CHA) have a week to regroup before they challenge Bemidji State in a two-game series. Colgate, meanwhile, plays host to Holy Cross Saturday night.