DETROIT — Despite the absence of junior captain and leading scorer Joe Tallari, and senior defenseman Andrew Nahirniak, Niagara tied its third conference game Friday evening at the Great Lakes Sports Arena, 2-2.
Goaltender Rob Bonk was the story of the night, making a total of 46 saves to earn his first his tie of the year and moving the Purple Eagles to 6-2-3 in conference play.
It only took seven seconds for the Purple Eagles to get on the board. Directly off the drop of the puck the Purple Eagles started the attack, with Chris Welch taking the initial shot and Justin Cross following in burying the rebound just past Wayne State goalie David Guerrera into the back of the net to put the Purple Eagles up 1-0.
Wayne State tied the game at one with 5:30 remaining in the first, when John Brink tapped in a loose puck in the crease that Rob Bonk thought he had covered under his glove.
Niagara regained the lead late in the second period with 3:58 remaining as Jason Williamson found the back of the net on the goal mouth scramble for his third goal of the season giving the Purple Eagles a 2-1 lead.
After going 15 minutes and 32 seconds without a goal scored, Wayne State got the tying goal just 39 seconds after the Purple Eagles went ahead 2-1. Wayne State’s Jason Durbin was credited with the four-on-four goal, making it 2-2 heading into the third period of play.
The two teams had their fair share of chances to go ahead in the third however neither team could bang one home, sending the game to overtime. Heading into overtime shots on goal were 47-30 in favor of Wayne State.
Overtime would prove nothing Friday evening.
“The good thing this evening was we kept Wayne State power play off the board, one of the best in the league,” said Niagara coach Dave Burkholder.
Bonk, a Michigan native, made several outstanding saves throughout the game to keep his team in contention.
“Rob played great tonight and we are going to need that down the stretch,” said Burkholder.
Niagara and Wayne State appear Saturday evening at 7:05 p.m. for the second game of the weekend series. The game will be played at the Compuware Sports Arena in Plymouth, Mich.