NIAGARA, N.Y. — Alabama-Huntsville continued to surge in the CHA with a 4-2 victory over Niagara before a capacity crowd Saturday night at Dwyer Arena.
Junior Bruce Mulherin put the Chargers on his back and came up with the hat trick, allowing UAH to even the score twice in the second period, and then finished the Purple Eagles with an empty-netter as time ran out.
Mulherin’s performance pushed his goal total to 21 and demonstrated why he has become one of the CHA’s premier players.
“Bruce has been playing tremendously all year,” Chargers coach Doug Ross said. “He just keeps coming and coming. He’s a real competitor and he scored some real nice goals.”
“Bruce Mulherin is the CHA player of the year,” Niagara coach Dave Burkholder said. “He’s the best player in our league. His first goal to even the score deflated us and they started to take over play for awhile. … But it’s become such a special-teams game and that’s what the NCAA wants. You no longer get to play your third and fourth line with the amount of calls.”
Special teams, indeed, factored into the contest as the Chargers scored the lone power-play tally of a weekend series that witnessed a staggering amount of penalty minutes.
Niagara squandered two bona fide opportunities in the third period. The Purple Eagles failed to convert on a 5-3, and then bonked again when Charger captain Jared Ross was whistled for a five-minute major on a spearing call. The Purple Eagles could not get the tying goal past Charger goalie Scott Munroe, who turned in another outstanding performance.
Niagara opened the scoring in the first period after an Alabama-Huntsville defender overcommitted to a Purple Eagle breakout, leading to an odd-man rush by Barret Ehgoetz and Ryan Gale. Ehgoetz’s initial shot was stopped by Munroe, but Kris Wiebe trailed the play and slammed home the rebound.
Mulherin’s first goal for Alabama was a beauty. He beat two Niagara defenders and then sent a soaring wrist shot over Niagara goalie Jeff Van Nynatten’s glove high into the net to even the score, 1-1.
Early in the second period, Niagara forward Sean Bentivoglio drove to the net and linemate Matt Carruana tapped in the rebound.
But Mulherin struck again, evening the score for the Chargers, when he too drove the net and put back his rebound.
Jared Ross scored the game winner on the power play when he was left alone in front of Van Nynatten.
Munroe made a series of key saves in the third to preserve the Charger win. Charger coach Doug Ross, not known for glib post-game remarks, was downright
ebullient in describing the play of his goaltender.
“He’s winning games for us,” Ross said. “Probably ’cause I’m not coaching him, much. Leave what’s not broken.
“My job this weekend was to get all of our lines involved. We have to play so many games on the road to finish the season; we have to learn how to win on the road.”