CANTON, N.Y. — So many penalties, so little time.
Niagara’s season-opening foray to the North Country yielded a split thanks to Matt Caruana’s dramatic third period goal Saturday night at St. Lawrence.
Moments before scoring the game-winning tally that insured Niagara’s 4-3 victory over the Saints, Caruana was stoned on a penalty shot. But the lanky centerman atoned for the miss with a monster one-on-one effort that beat goalie Alex Pizian along the ice.
In 120 minutes of hockey this weekend, Niagara saw less than a period at even strength. Frank Murphy, who officiated the Purple Eagles’ games against Clarkson and St. Lawrence, called a total of 121 minutes in infractions.
St. Lawrence head coach Joe Marsh was philosophical on the tightly officiated opening to the college season.
“You’re seeing a lot of compensation calls,” Marsh said. “They’re not skating penalties. The hooking and holding calls you’re seeing are coming when a guy fails to overcompensate when the puck carrier gains a position. Overall, I really liked our last two periods tonight. We’ll learn to bring our team speed up to the individual speed you saw out of our guys.”
“That was a great win for us,” Niagara coach Dave Burkholder said. “We blocked a team record twenty shots, playing shorthanded as such. I was really proud of our effort. This team stuck to one of its mottos which is to have a warrior mentality.”
Niagara opened up a 2-1 lead by the end of the first period on goals by Ted Cook and Vince Rocco. St. Lawrence got its goal off of a Jared Ross blast from the point.
The Purple Eagles upped the lead to 3-1 on Cook’s second of the evening. The sophomore from nearby Hogansburg, N.Y., continued to show his scoring prowess that earned him All-CHA honors last year with his uncanny ability to get his shot off in heavy traffic.
“Cook has a lot of respect in our locker room because he produces on the ice,” Burkholder said. “He’s an ultra-competitive kid and he gives us confidence out there.”
St. Lawrence closed the gap to 3-2 in the waning moments of the second period when Zack Miscovic blistered a slap shot from the blueline that just caught the top of the net. The Saints controlled long stretches of the period through a combination of power plays and sheer effort, but the Purple Eagles held on. Sophomore netminder Juliano Pagliero was tested on several occasions and made a claim for ownership of the Niagara net with a spectacular series of point-blank saves.
Miscovic tied the score with another long-range bomb on a delayed power play, but Carruana’s game winner quieted the spirited crowd at Appleton Arena.
Pagliero made a total of 38 saves while St. Lawrence starter Kain Tisi, after being pulled in the second period, came back in the third to register the loss in his first college outing.
Niagara plays Colgate in the Rochester Blue Cross Arena on Thurday, Oct. 12 while St. Lawrence travels to Providence next Saturday.