NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. — Niagara’s rugged, 6-4 victory over visiting Rochester Institute of Technology was proof positive that the Purple Eagles have become a Saturday night hockey team.
Bitten by injury (five starters out), and leg-weary at the onset of the contest, Niagara pushed back from the initial surge of the Tigers and calmly staked a 3-1 lead to end the first period.
“When you come into someone’s building and control play the way we did in the first period,” RIT coach Wayne Wilson said, “those are the games you’ve got to win.”
“That was like a game from the ’80s with all of those goals,” Niagara coach Dave Burkholder remarked. “I thought it was a gusty win on a night that the momentum swings were unbelievable. It was a warrior mindset in that locker room tonight. The guys have been asked to play more ice time because it’s a short bench and as a team, I couldn’t be more proud of the team coming through for us.”
Indeed, Niagara’s first three goals were contrapuntal notes to RIT’s aggressive start. Ryan Rashid tallied first for Niagara, followed by CJ Chartrain and Marc Zanette before Mike Colavecchia injected new life into RIT with a late power-play goal that ended the opening stanza.
RIT drew closer early in the second on another power-play tally by Chris Saracino, but Niagara’s Ryan Murphy set up Chartrain for his second of the evening on an ensuing power play and the Purple Eagles maintained a two-goal cushion for the rest of the contest.
Niagara received additional scoring from Patrick Diivjak and Dan Koleda, while RIT’s Adam Mitchell and Greg Noyes tallied for the Tigers.
There was no scoring in the third period.
It wasn’t a night for highlight-reel moments or picture book endings. It was the back end of a home-and-home between bitter regional rivals.
The Purple Eagles (now standing at an Atlantic Hockey league-leading 15-4-1) have figured out a way to grab those points even with a lineup that showed the wear and tear of Saturday night in the college hockey season and the long road forward.