LEWISTON, N.Y. — On a sundrenched fall afternoon, the Union Dutchmen continued their mastery of Niagara by taking a hard-fought 4-2 decision over the Purple Eagles at Dwyer Arena.
Union coach Nate Leaman earned his first career victory in a contest where the Dutchmen’s special teams outplayed Niagara’s, and also received clutch goaltending from sophomore Tim Roth. After Union scored on back-to-back power plays midway through the second period, the Dutchmen killed off a key two-man disadvantage late in the third before Oliver Bouchard’s empty-netter sealed the victory.
“Obviously, I’m very happy to get the win,” Leaman said. “I wasn’t happy with the penalties we gave up in the third period, but what pleased me was the way our guys stuck together and pulled through on that 5-on-3 at the end of the game.”
For Niagara coach Dave Burkholder, season-opening victories have been hard to come by. “I shouldn’t have even been allowed in the building today,” Burkholder said in reference to his team’s historically poor showing on opening day in general, and against Union in particular.
Union forward Jordan Webb opened the scoring by taking Niagara defenseman Casey Handrahan down low in a one-on-one situation where Webb used Handrahan as a screen for his low wrist shot that beat NU’s Rob Bonk.
After Niagara’s Barret Ehgoetz evened the score at one apiece early in the second, Union exploded on consecutive power plays. Brian Kerr connected on the first after receiving beautiful cross-ice passes from linemates Brent Williams and Matt Vogvolgyi. Moments later, on another power play, Scott Seney put back an odd bounce to stretch Union’s lead to 3-1.
Niagara responded early in the third when freshman Jeremy Hall beat Roth in a scramble in front of the net. Niagara seemed to gain momentum throughout the period, outshooting Union by a wide margin, but Roth stoned the Purple Eagles on several point-blank opportunities while allowing his team a chance to regroup for the crucial late penalty kill.
“I thought Glenn Sanders and Max Seel stepped up and killed those penalties for us as the end,” Leaman said. “And Joel Beal was and absolute horse for us tonight. It’s going to take that for us to win.”
Burkholder was equally complimentary of Union’s play. “They can tie you up on faceoffs,” he said. “They’re a very gritty team. We just couldn’t seem to get our power play set up. I thought we wasted too much time doing that, but then once we were set, we did have good movement.”
Union faces Hockey East opponent Merrimack next week while Niagara plays an exhibition against Brock University.