NIAGARA, N.Y. — For Niagara University, it might not be time to panic.
But its certainly time to start worrying.
Chris Kushneriuk scored three goals — including the game-winner midway through the third period — as Robert Morris defeated the descending Purple Eagles 5-3 in front of 815 people at Dwyer Arena on Friday.
Niagara has still not won: its 0-1-0 in league action and 0-8-1 overall. In fairness to the Purple Eagles, they have played four ranked teams, but looked sloppy at times in what — on paper at least — seemed to be a winnable game at home against a club that has struggled this season.
The Colonials — who eliminated the Purple Eagles in last seasons College Hockey America tournament — improved to 1-2-0 in league play and 3-6-0 overall.
The four goals were an outburst for Robert Morris, which had scored one goal or less in four of its last five games.
We came out and battled, Colonials coach Derek Schooley said. That was our theme this week. We wanted to compete for 60 minutes and I think, minus a few minutes in the second when they had a little momentum, we did a very good job. We worked hard and did the simple things.
We had a complete team effort tonight.
Understandably, Niagara coach Dave Burkholder was a little sour after the game and admitted he is losing a little patience with his young and inexperienced club.
It has to stop, he said of his team again falling behind early. We have to be a lot tougher mentally. We need to be a lot better. Five-on-five we lost. They had more spirit and energy. Hopefully guys will start playing up to their capabilities. We have a lot of guys that are not playing well.
After the game, Burkholder had a talk with his players in the locker room that was probably not for the faint of heart.
I was a little sarcastic and a little negative in the room, he said. But it is comical how poorly how some of our top guys are playing.
Kushneriuk scored the eventual game winner when he jammed a loose puck past Niagara goaltender Andrew Hare during at madly chaotic scramble in front of the Niagara net to give the Colonials a 4-3 lead and himself the hat trick with just under nine minutes left in the third period.
It was a great shot by (Dave) Cowan, he said of the decisive goal. He (Cowan) was able to get it through some traffic. I just happened to be standing at the side of the net. I like to lurk around the net and try to find rebounds. The puck squirted out and I was able to kick it to my backhand and squeeze it in.
Scott Kobialko scored an insurance goal for a 5-3 RMU advantage at 16:42 when he jammed in a rebound past Hare.
Earlier, the Colonials appeared to be sailing smoothly with a 3-1 lead late in the second period. But Niagara got rolling late in the period and dominated play. Its dominance paid off when Ryan Olidis took a pass down low from Chris Moran and flipped the puck over RMU goaltender Brooks Ostergards shoulder with just 47 seconds left in the period which sliced the deficit to 3-2.
Niagara tied it at three when Brent Vandenberg took a pass from Brendan Sheehan and backhanded a sizzling shot from the slot over Ostergoods glove to tie the game 3-3 at 6:24 of the third period before Kushneriuk scored the decisive goal.
Nick Chiavetta scored the other goal for Robert Morris while Ostergard made 38 saves.
Moran had a goal and an assist while Hare — a freshman playing in his first home game — recorded 29 stops for the Purple Eagles.