BURLINGTON, Vt. — The Niagara Purple Eagles used a balanced attack, getting goals from five different players en route to a 6-1 victory over Vermont at Gutterson Fieldhouse Friday.
Senior Ryan Gale led the way as he potted two goals, and another senior, Barrett Ehgoetz, chipped in a goal and two assists. Jeff VanNynatten was none too shabby in net, either. He stopped 30 of 31 Catamount shots to secure the win.
The Purple Eagles were excellent on the power play, executing with deadly precision. Niagara scored four times in 10 chances with the man advantage to take the first game of the weekend series.
In the first period, Niagara converted on three of its seven opportunities, while Vermont was zero for two on its man advantages. Vermont looked undisciplined and paid the price early.
Andrew Lackner scored first for the Purple Eagles. Lackner blasted a shot from the left point past Vermont goalie Joe Fallon (21 saves), who was neatly screened on the play. Pat Oliveto and Barrett Ehgoetz assisted on the power-play goal at 5:21.
Niagara’s power play clicked again at 12:37 of the period. Justin Cross found Ehgoetz cutting to the net, The Niagara captain skillfully tipped the puck past Fallon for a 2-0 lead. Matt Caruana also assisted on Ehgoetz third of the season.
With the final seconds ticking away in the first, the Eagles got one more on the extra man, for good measure. Gale scored on a turnaround shot from the left circle. Lackner and Cross picked up assists on the goal as Niagara went into the intermission with a two-goal edge.
“It’s going to be the team that’s better on the power play, and the team that perseveres on the penalty kill that will win the majority of the games,” said Niagara coach Dave Burkholder.
Vermont woke up in the second and took the play to the visitors. The Cats had 15 second-period shots — but VanNynatten had to make some tremendous saves to keep Niagara in the lead, including stops on Scott Mifsud, Tim Plant, Torrey Mitchell and Kenny Macaulay in the final half of the period.
With Vermont already skating a man up, Travis Anderson was whistled for obstruction-hooking. Vermont had 95 seconds of a two-man advantage, and Macaulay put the Cats on the board at 14:02 with a blistering shot from the right point. Ryan Gunderson and Mifsud recorded helpers on the goal.
Vermont couldn’t do anything with the rest of the power play, and finished one-for-nine with the extra skater. Nevertheless, the Cats had momentum going into the final 20 minutes, or so they thought. The Purple Eagles put an end to any hopes of a Vermont comeback in the third period, scoring three more times in the final 20 minutes.
Kris Wiebe started the offensive barrage with a goal, again on the power play, at 12:51 to make it 4-1. Oliveto lit the lamp at 11:56, and Gale finished out the scoring at 17:10 of the third, with his second of the night.
The final two goals of the night were the only two not scored on power plays.
When asked if he believes the NCAA crackdown on penalties away from the play is the right thing to do, Burkholder said, “I agree with the concept of taking obstruction out of our game. As a Division I body we have to persevere and coach our teams differently, and hopefully, in the end, it’s a better product on the ice.”
Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon, while giving credit to Niagara for the win, was not pleased with the effort of his team.
“[Niagara] deserved the win,” Sneddon said. “They played a great hockey game, and we did not play well at all. From the net out, we were outclassed, outhustled, outworked, we were outsmarted. The far better hockey team is over there in that other locker room.”
When asked what could be done to get the team going again, he said, “A lot of lineup changes tomorrow night — that’s all we can do right now.
The same two teams face off again Saturday at 7 p.m.