LEWISTON, N.Y. — Niagara (22-10-4) won the 2007-2008 CHA Tournament with a 3-2 victory over Bemidji State on Sunday, clinching a berth into the 2008 NCAA Tournament.
The Purple Eagles scored two goals in the final four minutes of the second period and junior netminder Juliano Pagliero stopped all nine Beaver shots in the final period, including two incredible saves while on a five-on-three penalty kill, to preserve the victory.
“From the first day of practice, we talked about being a championship team,” Niagara head coach Dave Burkholder said. “All year we dreamed about celebrating on our home ice. I had visions of this. We were on a mission to make sure our seniors went to the NCAA Tournament and we’ve accomplished it.”
“We just didnt have that mojo today,” said BSU head coach Tom Serratore, whose team finishes at 17-16-3. “Our puck possession and fore checking weren’t what they normally are and we didn’t sustain the kind of pressure you need to win on the road.
“I thought our guys showed a lot of resiliency and fought until the end and that is all you can ask.”
Junior forward Kyle Rogers connected on a one-timer just 10 seconds into a power-play opportunity in the final minute of the second period for the game-winner. Senior co-captian Matt Caruana won the draw and cycled the puck to Ted Cook. Cook sent the puck across the ice to Vince Rocco and the co-captian found Rogers wide open in the center of the zone. The 6-foot-1 forward sent the one-timer on net and buried the game-winner.
With six minutes remaining in the contest and the Purple Eagles already on the penalty kill, Niagara was forced to fight off a five-on-three for 1:27. Burkholder sent three defensemen to the ice as sophomore Ryan Annesley took three draws in the penalty kill.
“The three seniors who were on the ice during the five-on-three were completely unphased,” Burkholder said. “I, on the other hand, was a complete mess.”
The Dwyer Arena crowd of 1,081 seemed like it had a bolt of electricity sent through it with each Niagara clear, but the biggest eruption came on a Pagliero save. The junior goalie made a sprawling save, and as the puck trickled between his legs, Pagliero sat down on the puck and stopped it just inches in front of the goal line.
Just after Niagara successfully killed the pair of penalties, Cook came racing down center ice and Annesley fed him the puck on a breakaway. After a quick deke, Cook sent the puck past Matt Climie and the goal light went on. After a short break, officials ruled no goal after video replay showed inconclusive evidence.
Bemidji State took a 1-0 lead 2:55 into the first period when Brandon Marino gathered a rebound and beat Pagliero on his stick side. Halfway through the opening frame, with the nation’s fifth-leading power-play unit on the ice, Cook deflected a slapshot from Rogers in front of the net to knot the score at 1-1.
Bemidji State controlled the first 16 minutes of the second period, including taking a 2-1 lead off a turnover in Niagara’s defensive zone. Tyler Lehrke buried a wrister after Matt Francis wrestled the puck away fron Niagara.
Sophomore Chris Moran tied the score at 2-2 with a rebound goal with 3:32 left in the period. Senior Scott Langdon took a shot off the draw that was blocked and Moran had an easy opportunity that he took advantage off. With 55 seconds left in the period, setting up the game-winning power-play opportunity.