LEWISTON, N.Y. — The Niagara Purple Eagles returned home for the first time in a very long while and could not have scripted it much better.
Five different players scored and goaltender Chris Noonan steered aside 38 shots as Niagara defeated Army, 5-1, in their first appearance in 59 days at Dwyer Arena on Friday night.
“It was great to be home,” said Niagara coach Dave Burkholder, whose club snapped a four-game winless streak. “I thought the guys showed a lot of energy from start to finish. We had four lines going, and I was really happy, especially with the (Tyler) Matthews, (Mike) Benedict and (Clark) MacLean line.”
The Purple Eagles have a golden opportunity to collect valuable points over the next eight days, playing three more home games against two of the bottom three clubs in Atlantic Hockey. So far, Niagara is 2-for-2 in getting those points and can earn two more against the Cadets Saturday night at 7 p.m.
“Absolutely,” Noonan said about the chance to get points against Army and American International College, which plays here next weekend. “We set a goal for ourselves before this weekend that we want to win 11 out of our next 14 games. We don’t want to take anybody for granted.”
Sam Alfieri, CJ Chartrain, Benedict, Chris Lochner and Marc Zanette scored the goals for Niagara, which improved to 5-4-5 in Atlantic Hockey and 6-8-7 overall.
Alfieri’s goal was his first in 13 games dating back to Nov. 4 and gave the Purple Eagles a 1-0 lead late in the first period. Chartrain’s was the eventual game-winner and gave Niagara a 2-0 lead just four minutes later.
Lochner’s goal was his second in his last three games.
Noonan has started the last four games for the Purple Eagles and is 14-7-5 in his last 26 decisions.
“He’s been a calming force back there, very steady,” Burkholder said. “When he plays like that, we have to play him. He’s playing like a senior and that’s what you hope.”
Despite the positive assessment of Noonan, Burkholder did not commit to naming him the starter for Saturday night’s game.
Noonan said getting four straight starts has boosted his confidence.
“I feel like I am in the right position to keep going with this,” he said. “I feel good in there. I think I can run with it. As a goalie, you want to get a rhythm going and a routine going and feel comfortable out there.
“The first half of the season was kind of sporadic, but I was fortunate enough to get some starts going here and I am building off of that.”
The Purple Eagles were actually outshot 39-35 by Army and were 1-for-4 on the power play.
Marcel Alvarez scored the lone goal and Ryan Leets made 30 saves for the Cadets, who fell to 1-10-4 in conference action and 2-12-6 overall.