NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. — Allen Barton is no longer Niagara’s forgotten man.
The senior goalie who, for long stretches of his career has been a healthy scratch, backstopped the Purple Eagles in a 6-3 triumph over visiting Alabama Huntsville.
Barton protected Niagara’s lead throughout the game, making crucial stops when called upon, and hung tough after taking two stingers to his left shoulder in the first and third periods.
“Boy, it’s been a long time since I’ve been asked to do this,” a grinning Barton said upon entrance to the post game pool of reporters. “I’ve been working hard to get back to what led me to success in juniors. I have to credit our assistant coach Greg Gardener for keeping me positive and working with me. He’s always yelling, always pushing us. He’s helped me to regain my confidence.”
The Purple Eagles were the beneficiaries of timely scoring which offset what was an otherwise a close game in which Huntsville actually outs hot Niagara by a comfortable margin. But something was missing from the Chargers game — and that something was a certain amount a nastiness which Niagara fans have come to expect in this CHA rivalry.
” We are eleven game in (to the season),” Niagara coach Dave Burkholder said. “We don’t want to be classified as a transition team. I think if we can bunker in defensively, then we’re going to be a very difficult team to play. I still think we are searching for that part of our identity. ”
Niagara’s three goal first period outburst began on the power play. Chris Moran’s shoot-in was trapped along the boards by Tyler Gotto, who then beat UAH goaltender Marc Narduzzi with a blast from the point.
Les Reaney tallied Niagara’s second goal of the contest on a long range wrist shot, and in perhaps a more impressive effort, set up Kyle Rogers for Niagara’s third goal. The Niagara centerman manhandled a UAH defender, ripping the puck from his stick, and then patiently waited as Rogers became open in the slot for the goal.
The Chargers climbed back into the game in the second.
A mere 15 seconds into the period, Tyler Hilbert sent a backhander past Barton to lift the sagging spirits of the Alabama bench, and re-energized the throng of Charger fans who had endured an eighteen hour bus ride to cheer on their team.
No fans in college hockey are more underrated and under appreciated as the Charger faithful. Alabama fans may not have grown up with the game , but they provided a consistent buzz to the contest and made the annual trek to Niagara an event for all at Dwyer arena.
Chris Moran scored Niagara’s decisive fourth goal. In a tantalizing glimpse of the future, the freshman playmaker intercepted a neutral zone pass and beat two Charger defenders before launching a wrist shot past Narduzzi.
After hope seemed to be fading again for the Chargers, senior Grant Selinger chased his own rebound and pulled UAH to within two goals.
But as soon as the third period began, the Purple Eagles poured it on. In the first minute, Ted Cook and Matt Caruana pumped in goals to extend the Niagara lead to 6-2. Sean Bentivoglio, Niagara’s captain, scored Niagara’s seventh goal after already adding two helpers earlier in the game.
Bentivoglio wreaked havoc all night on the Chargers. His explosive change of direction had the Charger defense back on their heels, and his relentless pursuit of the puck has given his teammates a gold standard from which to emulate.
Steve Canter scored the Chargers third goal on assists from Matt Sweazey and Brandon Roshko.
The two teams meet again tomorrow at 7:00 pm.