NIAGARA, N.Y. — It’s a funny game the way the puck bounces at times; how a goaltender can keep a whole team afloat until the rest of his squad gets its game legs; and in a span of one minute and nineteen seconds, how a team proceeds to kill a five-on-three power play then scores three consecutive shorthanded goals to morph a close contest into a rout.
That’s how Niagara wrote the script to its 5-2 thrashing of crosstown rival Canisius on Veteran’s Day at Dwyer Arena. For Niagara the glory of victory belonged to goaltender Juliano Pagliero, but the guts of the Purple Eagles’ effort was personified in the play of senior Armando Scarlatto.
Scarlatto was a late freshman walk-on in 2005. He was supposed to be too slow to play Division I hockey and for most of his career he had a hard time breaking into Niagara’s defensive rotation.
But when he did play, Scarlatto made things happen, often enough that Niagara’s coaching staff eventually found a slot for him as a winger on the fourth line. Tuesday, Scarlatto took a regular shift, killed penalties, dove in front of pucks, and played a rugged brand of selfless hockey that his younger teammates couldn’t help but gain inspiration from.
“There were times along the way when I questioned whether I wanted to continue to pursue hockey,” Scarlatto said. “I’ve waited four years for this opportunity, so I’m not going to let it pass. Last year they (Canisius) laughed at us when they beat us in their barn. It’s my role to get things going. I’ll play anywhere they want me to. I love it here. We’re a family at Niagara.”
In a freewheeling first period, Niagara made the most of its scant opportunities. Wes Consorti and Ryan Olidis tallied for the Purple Eagles, staking Niagara to a 2-0 lead, while Pagliero stonewalled the Griffins. Pagliero took one hard to the mask early but looked no worse for wear, as the senior stood tall in his crease turning away all thirteen Canisius shots.
Niagara ignited the capacity crowd with three shorthanded goals in the second period. The first came when freshman Sam Goodwin went in on a 2-1 and waited just long enough for Griffs goaltender Andrew Loewen to commit before firing a wrist shot past him. Seconds later, Egor Mirinov broke in on Loewen and chased him out of the net with a blistering snap shot. Finally, Dan Sullivan lifted a floating puck past backup netminder Taylor Anderson, and suddenly what was a close game seemed out of reach for Canisius.
“I don’t know what it meant to have our two disallowed goals (early in the second period) in terms of momentum,” Canisius coach Dave Smith said. “I don’t know if you would see three shorthanded goals like that in a season. And to have them back-to-back-to-back, it’s just bizarre.”
Canisius did get on the board in the third period shortly after squandering a second five-on-three power play. Wes Love and Peter MacDougall tallied for the Griffs to make things interesting for a brief while, but Niagara blocked 32 shots in all, none more stinging than the one that caught Scarlatto in the ribs while he dove to the ground late in the third period. He was the lone Purple Eagle in the training room after the game.
“What Armando does is just amazing,” defenseman Dan Sullivan said. “We all get fired up when we see him going out there. He’s a natural defenseman playing forward. It’s not easy for him, but when he makes a big hit the whole bench lifts up.”