Moon Township, Pa. — The Niagara Purple Eagles found the back of the net twice in the final eight minutes of the third period, earning a hard-fought point in the Atlantic Hockey standings with a 2-2 tie with the Robert Morris Colonials at the Island Sports Center Friday night. It was the kind of night where both rhythm and even-strength goals were hard to come by, as the teams traded one power-play chance after the other, leaving the scoring to the special teams for the most part.
In fact, the Colonials set a program record with two short-handed goals in one period, and tied another by extending their unbeaten streak to six games.
“We didn’t play very well tonight.” said Colonials coach Derek Schooley. “I told our team that we probably stole a point, one that we really didn’t deserve. Niagara was much better than we were tonight.”
The defenses were stingy throughout the first period as both teams took away time and space, limiting the total first period shots to a very meager number, nine for the Purple Eagles and just three for the Colonials.
Robert Morris appeared to take the lead on its first power play of the game on a shot from forward Nick Chiavetta at 6:34, but the tally was taken off the board when officials ruled the Chiavetta’s stick was above the crossbar.
A bizarre pattern set in as both teams took penalties one right after the other. The lack of even-strength ice time seemed to take away the classic end-to-end skating action that has become a trademark of the Niagara/Robert Morris rivalry over the years.
“It was one of those games where those momentum swings happened early and often.” Niagara coach Dave Burkholder said. “Sometimes when it’s a penalty filled game, it’s tough to get rolling.”
Chiavetta added the perfect shot at the 14:42 mark of the second period with a sniper style snap shot that beat Eagles goaltender Chris Noonan. At 18:42 of the second frame, Colonials captain Trevor Lewis notched his sixth goal of the season, with the assist going to forward Ron Cramer.
“Those were some really nice goals tonight; Nick Chiavetta’s been real hot lately and Trevor and Cramer (Ron) worked really well together on their goal.” said Schooley
Nailing down third-period leads had been a work in progress for Robert Morris, and they were in line to learn another valuable lesson on this night.
The Purple Eagles found the back of the net for the first time at 12:52 of the third against the nation’s top penalty-killing unit when senior defenseman C.J. Chartrain sent a blast from center point which cut the Colonials lead in half.
From that point on, it was as if a light had turned on for Niagara, and at 18:56 ,with the net empty and the extra attacker on, forward Ryan Rashid deflected a shot past goalie Brooks Ostergard to tie the score at 2.
Overtime saw the Eagles outshoot the Colonials seven to four, including some great chances from close in that Ostergard made spectacular saves on. Ostergard, the game’s first star, ended up with 47 saves on 49 shots, while the Purple Eagles Noonan stopped 31 of 33.
The Colonials host Canisius on Sunday, while the Purple Eagles travel to Mercyhurst for a Saturday night showdown.