After taking care of its national ranking, it was time for the Niagara men's hockey team to take care of the element most in its control -- conference play.
The 16th-ranked Purple Eagles moved into a tie for first place in College Hockey America with a 4-2 win over Wayne State Friday night.
A Dwyer Arena crowd of 1,199 saw Niagara extend its undefeated home streak to 10-0-1.
Niagara improved to 7-1-3 in the CHA, giving it 17 points to tie Bemidji State. The Purple Eagles have one game in hand over the Beavers, who are idle this weekend.
"We haven't won anything yet," said sophomore Ted Cook, who had two goals in the win. "We don't have the auto bid wrapped up. We still have games to play. . . . If we don't show up and don't get it done, there goes our streak and we'd have a good chance of losing our ranking if we lose to a CHA team. Sure we want that auto bid and that regular season championship, but if we don't put the effort in, we're not going to take it."
This win came the old-fashioned way -- good goaltending and a solid penalty kill.
Sophomore goalie Juliano Pagliero recorded 37 saves and anchored Niagara's penalty kill that held Wayne State to 0 for 8 on the power play.
"He was seeing a lot, had great rebound control and was reading the rush," Niagara coach Dave Burkholder said. "Obviously we feed off him. He's such a pillar back there and the guys have confidence in him. He does a really good job of running that zone and he does it with tons of energy, and he backs it up."
For Pagliero, it was his third straight win in his third straight start after establishing himself this semester as a starter.
"Obviously I'm enjoying the ice time and I'm just going to roll with what's going on right now," Pagliero said. "I feel with a team like this it's kind of like playing for the Yankees -- you know you're going to get run support. You're going to get backed up and as long as I make the big saves, we have a good shot."
Meanwhile, Niagara's power play got back on track with Ted Cook scoring a pair. His tallies gave him the single season Niagara record for power-play goals in a season with 15, breaking the record set by Kyle Martin in the 1999-2000 season. Cook now has 26 career power-play goals -- one off the mark set by Barret Ehgoetz.
Niagara took a 1-0 lead the first period on Cook's first goal but Wayne State came back to take a 2-1 lead early in the second period.
Niagara regained the momentum midway through the second when Les Reaney passed the puck to Ryan Annesley, who redirected it past Bothwell.
Reaney set up the next Niagara goal, feeding Cook across the goal mouth for a power-play goal and a 3-2 lead after 40 minutes. Matt Caruana added an insurance goal 5:06 into the third.
The weekend series concludes at 7 tonight in Dwyer.