LEWISTON, N.Y. — On a night when it was outhit and outhustled, Niagara still managed to extended its record to a perfect 5-0 in CHA play, withstanding a gutsy effort from visiting Alabama-Huntsville in a 2-1 victory at Dwyer Arena.
Niagara entered the contest on the heels of five back-to-back weekend series. Conversely, the Chargers had been idle for almost a month. Neither circumstance seemed to detract from a surprisingly wide-open game and stellar efforts from both goaltenders.
The difference for Niagara, however slight, was the two-headed counterattack mounted by Barrett Ehgoetz and Jeremy Hall, both of whom turned Charger transitional mistakes into game-defining goal opportunities.
“There’s two ways you can look at tonight’s game,” Niagara coach Dave Burkholder said. “Collectively, we did not play our best. That’s pretty obvious. But the thing that’s intriguing me about this team is that when the game is on the line in the third period, we are finding a way to win it.”
Charger assistant coach Lance West disagreed with the suggestion that the layoff may have accounted for some of the Chargers’ missed opportunities.
“I really think the difference tonight was that their skill guys (Hall and Ehgoetz) buried their chances,” he said. “Tonight we had a good chance to pull one out, but we let it get away.”
UAH opened the scoring in the first on the power play. Jared Ross won the draw back to Jeremy Schreiber, who froze the Niagara defender and beat goalie Jeff VanNynatten with a low wrist shot to the glove side.
Niagara evened the game in the second period when Hall found a streaking Ehgoetz for the one-timer past Charger goalie Adam MacLean, a shorthanded goal that seemed to snap the Purple Eagles back into the contest and set the stage for Hall’s game-winner later in the period.
“Chris Welch dropped it back to me,” Hall explained, describing the second goal. “I waited to see what the defenseman was going to do and when he committed I knew I had enough room to get around him, and that the goalie was out of position.”
Though in the lead, Niagara was unable to sustain momentum and was often pressed deep in its zone. Both teams had plenty of power-play opportunities but not many quality second chances or putback shots. The third period remained scoreless as Ehgoetz narrowly missed an empty-netter during the waning moments.
Both teams are back at it Saturday night for the conclusion of the weekend series.