NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. — Niagara extended its home unbeaten streak to 10-0-1 (16-8-3), dispatching Wayne St. by a 4-2 margin on a night where the Warriors might have garnered a different outcome except for the sensational play of Purple Eagle goalie Juliano Pagliero.
For a second week in a row, Pagliero was the glue that held the Purple Eagles atop the CHA with a game in hand on second place Bemidji State.
Pagliero turned aside 37 shots and kept the Warriors off the board on all eight of their power play opportunities.
At the start of the season, Niagara’s goaltending situation was cloudier than a well-crafted dirty martini, but Pagliero’s torrid play has shaken things up at Dwyer Arena and lifted the fog of doubt surrounding the Purple Eagle net.
“Really, it’s been a result of having Gards (assistant coach Greg Gardner) around and working with all three of us goalies in practice,” Pagliero said. “I was pretty much a reactive type goalie but Greg has helped me to develop my game, day after day in practice, through his teaching.”
“I don’t want to talk about him (Pagliero),” Wayne St coach Bill Wilkinson stated at the top of his post game press conference. “He’s too damn good.”
Warrior defenseman Jeff Caister gifted Niagara a 5-3 man advantage when he slew-footed Purple Eagle Ryan Annesley on a neutral zone face-off set. With Caister and teammate Mark Nebus in the box, Niagara’s first power play unit worked the puck to a satisfactory conclusion after Pat Oliveto and Chris Moran fed Ted Cook for his nation leading 24th goal.
Wayne St. took a 2-1 lead early in the second off goals by Nate Higgins and Jason Baclig. The Warriors outshot Niagara by a hefty 14-5 margin in the middle period. However, the Purple Eagles skated off with the 3-2 lead on tallies four minutes apart by Annesley and Cook.
Cook continued to lead the nation in goals and his 25th broke Niagara’s single season power play record held by Kyle Martin (99-00).
Niagara plunged a dagger into the Warriors early in the third on a seemingly nothing play. Sean Bentivoglio raced the entire length of the ice to keep the puck in the Warriors zone. Eventually, that hard work resulted in a rebound which Matt Carruana jumped on to cement the Niagara lead at 4-2.
“Well we find different ways to do it,” Niagara coach Dave Burkholder said. “Tonight we did it the old fashion way with great goaltending and a good penalty kill. Other than that there weren’t many areas I thought we excelled at.”