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NU goalies grab attention

Word on the street is that Denver wasn't interested in doing a tape-exchange with Niagara in preparation for their meeting in Colorado.

That is, until this past week.
That's what climbing the national rankings and having the top scoring line in the country (103 points combined in 22 games) will do for you -- earn a bit of respect from a former national champion.

Niagara, ranked No. 17 in the men's hockey poll, will play a two-game series at No. 7 Denver on Friday and Saturday.

Niagara (13-6-3) has won its last five games and has just one loss in its last 13. The Purple Eagles are first among the "receiving votes" category in the USA Today Poll and No. 15 in the Inside College Hockey Online poll.
They also are hovering around the at-large cutoff for an NCAA Tournament bid when looking at their PairWise Computer Rankings (17th) and Ratings Percentage Index (13th).
Add to that the scoring prowess of Niagara's top line -- Sean Bentivoglio, Ted Cook and Les Reaney -- and teams such as Denver suddenly become interested not just in taking care of their own game but in preparing for what they'll see from the Purple Eagles.
While the top line has racked up honors (all three made the Hobey Baker top-40 list), the goalies have steadily become key contributors.
At the start of the season, Niagara's ability to score was not in doubt.
With the graduation of Jeff Van Nynatten, who rewrote Niagara's goaltending record book, the ability to stop other teams from scoring was a question mark. Neither senior Allen Barton nor sophomore Juliano Pagliero had played much for the Purple Eagles.
Both polished their game in the first few weekends while working with former Niagara goalie and current assistant coach Greg Gardner.
Both have turned in career performances -- Pagliero with his first shutout and a career-high 41 saves against Wayne State in December and Barton with 38 saves in Saturday's win over RIT.
"You can't win on a consistent basis at Division I without good goaltending," Niagara associate coach Jerry Forton said. "That's just the bottom line. We're not lining up with 10 or 12 NHL draft picks like some other teams. You've got to get a [high] save percentage from your goalies and we give up a lot of shots, partly because we give our forwards some freedom."
Barton and Pagliero have spent much of the season splitting weekend series, though Pagliero picked up a few extra games after Barton broke his finger at the end of the first semester.
Pagliero holds slightly better numbers (2.96 goals against average, .915 save percentage) than Barton (3.26 goals against, .908 save percentage). Yet neither seems preoccupied with becoming the No. 1 goalie.
"We're just hoping to keep Niagara's tradition of good goaltending alive," Pagliero said. "We're roommates on the road so we're able to talk about what's going on in the games.
"I think the biggest thing for us right now is timely scoring. . . . Obviously we're also getting some timely saves from [Barton] and myself. This team has a lot of confidence in itself."


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