TROY, N.Y. — The Niagara Purple Eagles won their first tournament title in five years with a 3-1 victory over Colgate in the Championship Game of the 56th Annual Rensselaer/Bank of America Holiday Hockey Tournament.
The tournament win was the fist since the 2001 Syracuse Invitational for the Purple Eagles and sixth overall.
“I’m really proud of the kids, we’re on a roll now,” said Purple Eagle head coach Dave Burkholder. “When we get rolling we start winning shifts, we finish checks, we’re blocking shots. If we don’t do that, we’re getting beat. We’re going to make our plays and that showed tonight.”
The Raiders were the first ones on the board when Marc Fulton finished off a nice rush for the Raiders and put one past Juliano Pagliero after receiving a nice dish from Tyler Burton.
The Raiders had some opportunities to extend the lead, but the pipes helped out Niagara and goaltender Juliano Pagliero.
“We hit a couple of goalposts right after that and it could have easily been 3-0,” said Raider head coach Don Vaughan. “If we got that bounce the other way it would have been a totally different game.”
Matt Caruana picked off a pass at the blue line on a Colgate power play and then sprung Sean Bentivoglio between two defenders. A deke and then a lifted shot beat Mark Dekanich.
“Benti’s shorty was a key for us,” said Burkholder. “We were getting into some penalty trouble there.”
Niagara took the lead in the third period on a power play. With the puck cycled around Ryan Annesley’s hard point shot got through Dekanich for the goal.
“He’s dynamic back there. He’s got a great stick and he’s got great poise,” said Burkholder of Annesley. “He can make plays for you.”
Niagara’s Chris Moran stole the puck along the boards in neutral ice, came down and slid it under Dekanich for the 3-1 lead.
From there Pagliero made the saves, finishing with 31 saves, 17 in the third period alone.
“Our goaltending was just fantastic this weekend,” said Burkholder. “We’ve been rotating goaltenders for the last three weeks and they’ve been great. That’s what wins you college hockey games.”
Colgate (5-8-2) will host Union and Rensselaer next weekend in ECACHL.
“It’s a little disappointing to be in the championship game and not get it done,” said Vaughan. “But I thought we worked hard and had a couple of bad breaks where we had a bounce on a faceoff and a chip-through on the shorthanded breakaway, but that’s the way it goes.
“But we had great opportunities, it just didn’t bounce for us tonight.”
The Purple Eagles (8-5-3) will play Massachusetts next weekend.
“The momentum here has got to go a long way,” said Burkholder. “We seem to be gaining more confidence every weekend. We have another tough one next week against Massachusetts, but we play this schedule so that when we get to March, we’re ready to go.”
The All-Tournament Team consisted of Annesley on defense along with teammates Juliano Pagliero in goal and Matt Caruana at forward. Colgate’s Tyler Burton was named at forward as well as Rensselaer’s Uryadov. Sean Collins of Ohio State was named on defense and the Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player was Niagara’s Sean Bentivoglio.