LEWISTON, N.Y. — Niagara advanced to the CHA Finals with a 6-3 win over rival Robert Morris on Saturday in front of 1,165 fans at Dwyer Arena. The Purple Eagles scored four goals in the final period and Juliano Pagliero slammed the door shut to send Niagara into Sunday’s Championship game against top-seeded Bemidji State.
“I thought that we played well tonight,” Niagara head coach Dave Burkholder said, “and when we play well like that, it’s easy to roll with four lines. When you are playing a one-game series, you need your goaltender to be one of your best players. Pags was one of our best players tonight.”
With the scored knotted at 3-3 midway through the final frame, the Purple Eagles third line of Egor Mironov, Paul Zanette and David Ross took control of the contest. Zanette sent a crisp pass from behind the net to a wide-open Mironov, and the 6-foot-1 forward buried the one-timer to give Niagara a 4-3 lead on the power play.
Just two minutes later the trio teamed up to give NU a two-goal lead, as the rookie forwards again found Mironov in front of the net for the quick wrister.
“Ross, Mironov and Zanette were the difference in the game tonight,” Burkholder explained.
Ross scored Niagara’s first goal of the night as well, tying the score at 1-1 in the second period. Zanette and Dan Sullivan assisted on the goal.
Sullivan tied the score at 2-2 after he found himself alone in front of the net, as co-captains Matt Caruana and Vince Rocco assisted on the play. Caruana wrestled the puck away from RMU against the boards, and Rocco snatched it up. No. 12 centered it to the junior defenseman and Sullivan deked the goalie for his fifth career goal.
Pagliero made 34 saves in the win to improve to 16-6-4 overall. The junior netminder made 11 saves in the first, 13 in the second and 10 in the final stanza.
The Colonials took an early 1-0 lead on a slap shot by Chris Margott, and jumped ahead 2-1 on Margott’s second goal of the night in the second period. The junior tallied a hat trick in the third period to tie the score at 3-3 on the power play.
The win gets Niagara into the CHA Final for the fourth time in eight years. The No. 2 Purple Eagles will face the top-seeded Beavers Sunday at 2 p.m.
“Bemidji State is start-to-finish the best team in the CHA,” Burkholder added. “We are glad that we get a crack at them.”