LEWISTON, N.Y. — Niagara swept visiting Quinnipiac in a weekend series where the Purple Eagles invested heavily in a young lineup that paid immediate dividends, not the least of which was the play of Freshman goaltender Scott Mollison who registered his second consecutive victory in as many starts.
Saturday, the Purple Eagles pulled away from the Bobcats after Marc Norrington one-timed a pass on a second period power play and found the underside of the crossbar to help seal a 4-1 victory for Niagara.
“I was really worried coming into this weekend,” Niagara coach Dave Burkholder said. “This was as team that needed results. Coming off eight straight road games, I thought we might hit a wall. But to get the sweep at home, well, now we can look at those road games as certainly meaning something.”
Niagara streaked to an early two-goal lead in the opening stanza. Justin Cross withstood two solid hits in the corner and still maintained control of the puck long enough to find Kris Wiebe for the first Niagara tally in front of the Bobcats net.
Purple Eagle forward Ryan Gale continued his torrid scoring pace shortly after Wiebe’s goal when he beat Bobcat netminder Jamie Holden along the ice on the power play.
Quinnipiac did not surrender, however, and pressed play for sustained periods during the second half of the first period. It was during this Quinnipiac flurry that the freshman Mollison earned his stripes and kept the Purple Eagles in the lead.
“Quite frankly he (Mollison) kept us in there in the first or else we would have been playing catch-up hockey,” Burkholder said.
“We really created a lot of offense,” said an upbeat Quinnipiac coach. “We’re hitting pipes, missing empty nets; Eastman (Steve) had an empty net and minute later Agnew (Mark) had one jump over his stick. But you’ve got to credit Niagara’s goalie. He played well.”
In the second, play remained somewhat even until midway through when Niagara slowly began to assert itself. Some aggressive forechecking lead to a Niagara 5-on-3 man advantage. Barret Eghoetz won the draw to Cross who fed Norrington for the shot that extended the Purple Eagles lead to 3-1.
Quinnipiac struck back in the third. Chris White broke Mollison’s shutout early in the final period on assists from Steve Eastman and Tom Watkins.
Niagara turned to Cross and Wiebe again for an answer and after some gritty play in front of Quinnipiac’s net, Wiebe managed to set up Cross for the insurance goal.
For Cross, the game marked a breakout-type performance for the junior winger who found himself struggling to score early this season. Cross took his demotion to Niagara’s second line philosophically.
“Actually I’m very comfortable playing with Kris (Wiebe),” Cross said. “He’ such a straight ahead goal scorer that now my job is to create space for him and the center and get them the puck. That’s the type game I do best.”
Quinnipiac goaltender Holden faced 48 shots in a very solid effort for the Bobcats. Quinnipiac falls to 3-4 on the season while Niagara’s two victories pushed the Purple Eagles to 5-6.