NIAGARA, N.Y. — Despite still being winless, Niagara University coach Dave Burkholder has been happy with his club.
Casey Wellman and James Marcou scored just under three minutes apart late in the third period to give Massachusetts a 4-2 victory over Niagara on a glorious fall afternoon better suited for golf than hockey.
Niagara fell to 0-7-1 on the season while UMass improved to 6-1-0.
“We thought coming here after Friday night’s game would be a chore to get things going on a positive note,” said UMass coach Don Cahoon, whose club defeated Niagara 4-1 Friday in Amherst. “I was happy overall with our effort.”
With the scored tied 2-2 late in the third period, the Minutemen took over the game.
One episode that epitomized how UMass seized control DID NOT end up on the scoreboard but was a preview of things to come; the Minutemen generated two two-on-one’s during the same Niagara power play, and followed that up with a three-on-one a minute later before their dominance finally showed up on the scoreboard.
First, Wellman took a pass from Justin Braun and quickly slid the puck past Niagara goaltender Chris Noonan for a 3-2 lead at 14:57.
Just under three minutes later, Marcou floated through the crease, took a pass from Wellman and beat Noonan for a 4-2 lead.
“We came out taking the body and had lots of energy, but as the game wore on, they played like the ranked team they are,” Burkholder said of the Minutemen, who received votes in the USA Today Poll and are ranked 19 in the USCHO poll.
Noonan finished with 25 saves in 32:50 minutes of playing time after starter Adam Avramenko was yanked. Avramenko surrendered a goal to Will Ortiz, whose blast from a sharp angle beat him to give the Minutemen a 2-1 advantage early in the second period. Burkholder — seeking an apparent momentum shift — made the switch in net.
After the game, Burkholder appeared to still be patient with his club despite not winning a game yet, although he was not happy with Sunday’s effort.
“We have made progress every game, but today I am really not happy with the overall details and turnovers,” he said. “We were sloppy today. Today was disappointing. We were excited to play at home today, but I don’t think people saw how we played on our road trip.”
Despite Burkholder not being impressed with his club, Cahoon sounded like he was.
“The NU team is a whole lot better than their record,” he said. “That team is going to win some games down the road.”
Egor Mironov and Ryan Olidis scored for the Purple Eagles. Michael Marcou scored the other UMass goal while Dan Meyers finished with 25 saves.
Niagara returns to action Friday when it hosts College Hockey America rival Robert Morris. The Minutemen host Hockey East opponent new Hampshire Friday and Saturday.
Notes: Of Niagara’s seven losses, three have come at the hands of USCHO ranked clubs: No. 4 Michigan and No. 5 Cornell in addition to UMass; Sunday was “Program Pioneers” Day at Dwyer Arena in celebration of Niagara’s 10th season of Division I hockey; Greg Gardner, a goaltender on Niagara’s inaugural team, is currently an assistant coach with the Purple Eagles.