NIAGARA, N.Y. — Unlike the previous evening, the patrons who showed up at Dwyer Arena certainly got their money’s worth.
Junior right wing Bryan Haczyk scored a fluke goal midway through the third period as the Niagara Purple Eagles redeemed themselves from an embarrassing loss and defeated St. Lawrence 4-3 on Saturday.
The win was a paramount triumph for the Purple Eagles, whose season might have started to slip away. They are still only 5-12-2, and start the College Hockey American portion of their schedule next weekend.
The Saints fell to 10-8-3.
“To respond the way we did as a team I think shows what’s inside that locker room,” Niagara coach Dave Burkholder said of his players. “One of our prouder moments of the season to come back with an effort like that.”
St. Lawrence coach Joe Marsh — who talks like he has been coaching for 24 years – was his usual philosophical self after the game.
“Those things happen during the course of a year,” he said in reference to losing on a freak goal. “We took a lot out of this game. Actually more in terms than we did last night. I cautioned the guys before the game, ‘Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security. You are going to see a different team.’”
Niagara led 4-2 early in the third period, but St. Lawrence got closer when Jeff Caister scored a short-handed goal with a blistering shot past Niagara netminder Chris Noonan 3:33 into the third period to make it 4-3.
Then it was time for some drama.
Everybody in the rink knew the Saints would pulverize the Niagara net with a barrage of rubber, and the Saints did just that. The Niagara end of the ice resembled a battle zone in the third period, with both clubs playing with reckless abandon.
The Saints outshot the Purple Eagles 14-10 in the third period, but St. Lawrence’s shots were all high quality scoring chances, and Noonan — as well as the Niagara defensemen who blocked many shots — were under siege, diving with little regard to health or welfare while sacrificing bodies and particularly limbs to block shots and subsequently combat the onslaught.
“We had a lot of guys sacrifice,” Burkholder said of his defensemen. “For us to block a lot of those shots…that’s part of winning games.”
Noonan finished with 29 saves.
“His two saves in the third period saved the game,” Burkholder said. “It got our attention on the bench. He was solid.”
Earlier, Haczyk score perhaps the most important goal in Niagara’s season. Just 33 seconds into the third period, he turned out to be the hero when he scored an ugly goal. He whacked at the puck from the corner of the rink, and somehow it eluded St. Lawrence goaltender Kain Tisi to give the Purple Eagles a 4-2 advantage just 58 seconds into the final period.
“I was just looking at the net and I saw my linemate Chris Moran going to the net,” said Haczyk, whose goal was his second this season. “I just tried to throw it at the net and catch a rebound for him or something. The puck just caught the inside of his (Tisi’s) pad and went right through his legs. Anything can happen when you shoot the puck.
“It (the goal) felt amazing, absolutely.”
Afterwards, Marsh summed up a recurring theme — praising a Niagara club which has a poor record.
“They are a deceiving team,” he said. “We all know they are a better team than their record. They are a dangerous team. I thought it was good response from their team tonight.”
Niagara hosts rival No. 10 Bemidji St Friday and Saturday night. The Saints host Colgate and Cornell next weekend.