NIAGARA, N.Y. — For one team, it was a nice outcome on the road. For the other, it was sour ending to a potentially very sweet start to the season.
Colgate scored twice in the final 3:46 of the third period to earn a 4-4 season-opening tie with Niagara on Friday night.
Afterwards, Niagara coach Dave Burkholder was unusually serene, an aberration from what he usually is after his club blows a 2-goal lead in the final minutes of a game.
There was a lot to hang our hats on in this game, he said cheerfully. Our guys battled hard all night.
The Purple Eagles looked like they were headed for an important season-opening victory — especially since they will field a young club this year — but things disintegrated quickly at the end of the third period.
Colgate trailed by two goals but pulled to within 4-3 with a shorthanded score. Brian Day took pass in slot and beat Niagara goaltender Adam Avramenko between the pads to give Colgate hope with 3:46 left.
Just over two minutes later Wade Poplawski blistered a low shot from the point past Avramenko to tie the game at four with just 1:21 left.
In fact, late goals boosted the Raiders and killed the Purple Eagles all evening.
After Dan Baco and Brent Vandenberg gave Niagara a 2-0 lead in the first period, Colgate sliced the deficit in half with just 2:36 left in the period when Day took a pass from David McIntyre and rifled the puck between Avramenkos pads at 17:24.
It was the same story in the second period: the Raiders scoring a paramount goal late in the stanza. They trailed 4-1 and things appeared gloomy, but Nick Prockow jammed in a rebound surrounded by a mass of bodies in front of Avramenko which pulled the Raiders to within 4-2 at 18:57.
We try to be strong in the first and last two or three minutes of each period, Burkholder said of his team, which suited up six freshmen and six sophomores on Friday. They got that late goal (at the end of the second period), and we were in the coaches room listening to the church bells ring. We hit a crossbar and some posts. And if they had gone in, we would have been in real good shape heading into the third.
But Niagaras shots didnt go in, and Colgates clutch goal kept them in striking distance.
We could have thrown in the towel, but we didnt, Colgate coach Don Vaughan said. We hung in there and found a way to come out of here with a tie.
For Niagara, the tie was a lesson to be learned from.
The last two or three minutes hurt us at the end of the periods, Vandenberg said.
Early in the game, the Raiders looked discombobulated and Niagara took advantage, taking a quick 2-0 lead on the Baco and Vandenberg goals.
We will have to look at what happened, Vaughan said of his clubs slow start. We were certainly prepared for the game, and knew what kind of game it would be.
Ryan Olidis and Marc Zanette scored the other Niagara goals while Avramenko recorded 26 saves. Colgates Charles Long finished with 25 saves.