LEWISTON, N.Y. — After a sophomore season in which he trailed only senior stars Paul Zanette and Bryan Haczyk in scoring, the points haven’t squeezed out as easily for Niagara’s Giancarlo Iuorio this year.
Coach Dave Burkholder has been pleased with his effort, but Iuorio came into Friday night’s Atlantic Hockey battle against Holy Cross with just a single point — an assist — in the Purple Eagles’ first six starts.
His strong play was finally rewarded, however, as Crusaders goalie Matt Ginn’s only slip-up of the evening led to a “greasy” goal for Iuorio, snapping a 2-2 tie in the third and pushing Niagara to a 4-2 victory at Dwyer Arena.
Isaac Kohls bounced the puck in from the point for Niagara (2-3-2, 1-1-1 AHA) and workhorse Matt Ginn, who made 28 saves in an otherwise yeoman’s effort, couldn’t corral it. The loose puck dropped down to Iuorio, who simply stuffed it in to give the hosts their first lead of the night with under 13 minutes to play.
After notching 33 points in 31 games last season, including nine goals, the lull before his first marker of this season made the celebration even more special.
“Coach always says, go around the net and you’ll find a greasy one,” said Iuorio, who also had an assist and was named the game’s first star. “It feels good. I’ve talked about it with coach a bunch of times before practice. He just told me to keep working hard and don’t worry about the points or anything like that. I listened to him, kept battling and one snuck in for me.”
Holy Cross (2-3-0, 1-2-0) got the start it wanted, scoring twice in the first period, including Adam Schmidt’s power-play goal with just 12 seconds remaining before the first intermission. For Schmidt, the tally pushed his goal-scoring streak to four games. Rob Linsmayer scored earlier for the Crusaders.
Burkholder, who’s been known to have a temperamental trigger finger when it comes to pulling goalies, said he wasn’t ready to give the hook to starting goalie Cody Campbell, who was chased last weekend in a 7-6 loss to Colgate. Waiting in the wings was freshman Colby Drost, who was the AHA’s goalie of the week after knocking off No. 16 Colgate 2-1 in the second half of a home-and-home.
“He settled in. I thought he deserved that chance. We were going to monitor him,” Burkholder said of Campbell, while noting that Drost will get the start in Saturday’s rematch. “He’s a competitor. There were a couple times when he got us whistles when we needed whistles. His game management after that was really good.”
The Purple Eagles responded with a big second period as defenseman Kevin Ryan scored his first goal of the season with an extra man as Holy Cross nearly completed killing a 5-on-3 situation.
Freshman Sam Alfieri continued his stellar play by zinging one past Ginn from the slot just 92 seconds later, knotting the game at 2-2.
Holy Cross coach Paul Pearl said his team maintained its effort, but a pair of calls on Andrew Cox and Matt Clune breathed new life into the hosts.
“We took two stupid penalties and it changed the whole complexion of the game,” said Pearl. “We didn’t change anything, we just got really stupid.”
That led to Iuorio’s goal in the third, which Pearl said didn’t shake his faith in Ginn. The freshman netminder has played every minute of the Crusaders’ five games thus far, and already has a huge win over No. 7 Boston University under his belt this season.
“It took a bounce. It happens. We like Matt, Matt’s a good goalie,” Pearl said. “It looked like it bounced a little bit, chipped up on him. Their guy did a good job going to the net.”
Jeff Hannan, the son of former NHL player Dave Hannan, added an empty-netter in his return to action. Hannan had been out since last season with a concussion, and he and senior Danny Baco — who also suffered a concussion last year — returned to give the Purple Eagles some much-needed senior leadership.
That might have been one reason the Purple Eagles didn’t lose focus when they fell behind early.
“I was pretty happy with the response,” Burkholder said. “The great news is, the last 40 minutes, we slowly took the game back.”