These are the kind of losses that will unequivocally age Niagara coach Dave Burkholder.
His team comes out flat, falls behind 2-0, storms back to tie the game in the third period, yet the rebuilding Purple Eagles give up the eventual game-winner on a soft goal.
Robert Morris continued to roll on Saturday evening, as Chris Kushneriuk scored the deciding goal midway through the third period to give the Colonials a 4-2 triumph over the Purple Eagles in an Atlantic Hockey Association game.
The Colonials, who have yet to play a game in their own building, improved to 4-1-0 in Atlantic play and an impressive 5-1-0 overall.
Niagara, which routinely battled ferociously with RMU for years in the now defunct College Hockey America league, continued to suffer the perils of a young team and are now 1-1-0 in league action and just 1-3-2 overall.
“Obviously, when you lose the first game on the weekend, you show some desperation,” said Robert Morris coach Derek Schooley, whose club lost its first game of the season Friday night at RIT. “I thought we did a good job of getting a lead; we would have liked the third period to be a lot easier than it was.
“Actually, I thought our game last night was better than our game tonight. I give a lot of credit to Niagara. They worked hard and kept coming. We showed a lot of resiliency as a team to come back after getting bombarded and getting the big goal.”
Down 2-0, Niagara awakened in the third period, outshooting RMU 12-6 in getting a 2-2 tie.
Defenseman Robert Martino’s slap shot from the left point went through a thick maze of players past a screened RMU goaltender Brooks Ostergard to pull Niagara to within a goal just 2:05 into the third period.
Then on a power play, Niagara’s Brian Haczyk cut in, took a pass from Giancarlo Iuorio from behind the net and flicked the puck past Ostergard to knot the game 2-2 at 6:36 for a brand new game.
Just over five minutes later, Kushneriuk streaked down the right side, took a pass from James Lyle and blasted the puck between Niagara goaltender Chris Noonan’s legs from a sharp angle to give the Colonials a 3-2 lead.
It was obviously a goal Noonan would like to have back, and he was not available to talk to the media about it after the game.
“I just came in, and I guess I was at a bad angle,” Kushneriuk said of the game-winner. “I passed up a few shots the night before (against RIT) so I decided to put one where it seemed open. It seemed he (Noonan) was cheating a bit.”
Noonan got the nod after freshman Carsen Chubak started Niagara’s previous four games; Noonan finished with 18 saves.
It was another frustrating evening for Burkholder’s young Niagara club, who might be in for even more painful events this season.
“It was frustrating in the fact that we could not get on track in the first period,” Burkholder said. “We never really got on track. In the second period, it was more of the same. For us to come out in the third and totally dominate them, the ice was tilted the whole third period.
“For a young team, it was a valuable lesson that you can’t win at Division I playing only 18 minutes of Niagara hockey. When we played (hard), they didn’t have the answers.”