It wasn't the best game they've played in Dwyer Arena. In fact, for the first 40 minutes it was arguably one of the worst performances the Niagara men's hockey team has given at home in recent memory.
But thanks to a late goal by Les Reaney and an empty-netter by Kyle Rogers, the Purple Eagles extended their home unbeaten streak to 21 games with a 4-2 win over Sacred Heart in front of 756 at Dwyer.
"A van Gogh it was not but I'll give the guys credit," Niagara coach Dave Burkholder said. "It's a 60-minute game and thankfully they came to play and earned it in the third period."
The lackluster second period was the worst for the Purple Eagles as Sacred Heart held a 19-7 advantage in shots and took a 2-1 lead when Adam DeJong scored on a Niagara defensive breakdown in front of goaltender Juliano Pagliero.
"We were on the wrong side of pucks, the wrong side of scrums," Burkholder said. "There was a lot of pressure on after the second period. Good teams find a way to win and it was a tough game."
Niagara picked up the pace in the third, tying the game just 1:58 into period when Scott Langdon scored on a delayed penalty call.
The Purple Eagles (7-3) were able to generate some better scoring chances in the third and capitalized again as Reaney rifled a shot past Sacred Heart's Stefan Drew with 1:51 left to play.
It was only the second goal of the season for the junior, who entered the season with 30 career goals.
"All game I was waiting to beat someone off the wall and I finally had my chance," Reaney said. "I got off the wall and opened to the middle and there was a great screen. I think that's why the puck went in.
"Hopefully the monkey is off my back. It took nine games and now I've got two goals in two games. By the fifth or sixth game [not scoring] got on my nerves. . . . Hopefully I'll just keep rolling now."
Niagara's home unbeaten streak stretched to 21 games (19-0-2). That moved the program into a tie for sixth all-time with Lake Superior State, which went unbeaten for 21 games from Nov. 4, 1972-Jan. 3, 1973.
The Purple Eagles will hope to move up and tie Michigan Tech's stretch of 22 unbeaten games (Nov. 29, 1975-Oct. 22, 1976) when they host Sacred Heart (3-4-1) in the series finale at 7 tonight.
The all-time record is 63 held by Cornell (Jan. 14, 1967-Jan. 29, 1972).
Canisius falls at AIC
American International earned its first win of the season at the expense of Canisius, posting a 3-1 victory at the Olympia Ice Center in Springfield, Mass.
AIC (1-5-1, 1-4-1 Atlantic Hockey) scored 59 seconds into the second period and added another goal at 3:31 to jump to a 2-0 lead.
Josh Heidinger scored at 5:59 into the third for the Griffs (2-6-2, 2-4-1) to make it a 2-1 game but AIC scored at 13:56 to regain a two-goal cushion.
It was the fifth straight game that Heidinger has scored for Canisius.