LEWISTON, N.Y. — On a night when all gate proceeds were donated to a local non-profit organization, Niagara nearly forgot the golden rule — charity begins at home.
The Purple Eagles shook off a lackluster effort, and a dismal 0-for-6 showing on the power play, by dominating the final stanza of play en route to a 1-0 victory over cross-border rival Brock.
Freshman Jeremy Hall surprised Brock goaltender Brian Harrison with a low wrist shot at the 4:12 mark of the third period for the game’s only score. Until that point Harrison had been superb in turning away a total of 35 Niagara shots, many from close range.
“We are gearing up for the big tournament next week,” Niagara coach Dave Burkholder said. “This was more about evaluating who will play then … When we finally got it going today, we looked like the Niagara team that played well down the stretch last year, but there were times when we played pretty poorly systems-wise.”
The tournament in question is the Punch Imlach Classic, where Niagara will face New Hampshire and UMass-Lowell on consecutive nights. Given the exhibition nature of Saturday’s contest, Burkholder chose to rest six of his regular contributors, including top centerman Barret Ehgoetz and defensemen Dave Hominuk and Brian Hartman.
Still, Niagara’s difficulty on the power play and ragged transitional play had to give Burkholder pause for concern. Unlike last year when the Purple Eagles more or less rolled their top two lines on the man advantage, Niagara has tinkered with its power play personnel and has yet to find an effective combination, failing to score on 11 cumulative opportunities.
One player who has not disappointed is Jeremy Hall, who has tallied goals in his first two collegiate games. “He’s junior-tested,” Burkholder said of Hall. “He was the leading scorer in the North American [Hockey] League. He’s been brought here to score goals and we’re going to lean on him.”
Niagara also enters the Punch Imlach without power forward Jason Williamson, out eight weeks with a separated shoulder.