After a brutal eight-game road trip, spending every weekend of the last month on the road, the Niagara men's hockey team was finally able to play at home.
And though they suffered from bouts of inconsistency after the first 10 minutes, the Purple Eagles earned a 3-1 nonconference win over Quinnipiac on Friday night in front of 1,006 in Dwyer Arena.
"We won the first five shifts of the hockey game, but we didn't think that would end up being the difference in the game," Niagara coach Dave Burkholder said. "It's funny how things go. . . . At times we played very well, and at times they played very well. There were so many momentum swings."
The only real swing Niagara (4-6) needed was a 42-second span in the first period. Junior Marc Norrington, who had some impressive checks in the opening period to up Niagara's physical presence, scored his first goal of the season at the 7:10 mark from the right faceoff circle.
On the next shift, Barret Ehgoetz picked up the puck at his blue line and completed a breathtaking rush by beating Quinnipiac goalie Jamie Holden stickside.
"Give Niagara a lot of credit, it's their home rink and they came out and took it to us the first eight, 10 minutes of the game," said Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold. "We settled down and started to play better after that . . . but I thought Niagara did a good job pressuring us and blocking shots. We played a 50-minute game."
Freshman Scott Mollison played solidly in his first career start, recording 21 saves to become the first Niagara freshman to win his first start.
Mollison played 21 minutes off the bench in last Saturday's 4-1 loss at Western Michigan, recording seven saves. It was his composure in that game and his performance in practice that earned him the start.
"If we preach the hardest-working guys will play, it has to be the same for the goalies," Burkholder said.
Mollison's win came with special thanks to the goal posts, which saved two shots by Quinnipiac (3-3) in the first period.
In the second period, he faced a penalty shot by Bobcats winger Michael Bordieri after Bordieri was pulled down on a breakaway by Shane Baylis. Mollison came out to challenge Bordieri, who attempted to deke then lost the puck.
"It was fun," Mollison said of the penalty shot. "All the guys were razzing me because the day before in practice I stopped 16 guys, including 10 in a row, and they were saying, 'What's one more penalty shot?' Then the guy just lost it."
The only goal Mollison allowed was a power-play tally by Matt Craig, who roofed a shot off a perfect pass from Reid Cashman with 5:14 left.
Niagara regained its two-goal lead when Justin Cross scored on a powerful, low wrist shot with 2:46 left.
The teams finish the series at 7 p.m. tonight in Dwyer Arena.