It was the collection of returning upperclassmen that caused an air of anticipation around the Niagara men's hockey team.
But in the Purple Eagles' first win of the season Saturday night, it was a bunch of sophomores and freshmen who came through in the clutch.
Sophomore Bryan Haczyk scored at 11:08 of the third period to give the Purple Eagles a 4-3 win over No. 14 Clarkson (1-1) in front of 1,573 at Dwyer Arena.
In fact, the line of Haczyk, sophomore Paul Zanette and freshman Brian Dowd was one of the best on the ice for Niagara, which improved to 1-2-1 overall.
"We've given [the underclassmen] ice time if they deserve it and over the first three games these guys deserved to play more and they're running with it," Niagara coach Dave Burkholder said. "That's been our best five-on-five line all season."
"We've played the last three games together and we feel we have excellent chemistry," Haczyk said. "We have speed, we work down low and Dowd is a smart player that makes plays. . . . It comes with working hard and when you work hard every shift you hope you get a bonus."
It was a victory the team had to have in order to quickly right the ship to start the season.
"It's an effort we needed," Burkholder said. "To hang in there and outwork a ranked team is something we needed for our mind-set and our confidence from here on out."
Clarkson scored just 1:41 into the game when Lauri Tuohimaa beat Juliano Pagliero.
The Purple Eagles evened the game midway through the period when sophomore Derek Foam had a perfect pass to freshman Dan Baco who drilled the puck past an out-of- position Tim Potter.
Pagliero looked to be fighting the puck during the first period but got enough puck luck, particularly when he made a save on a short-handed breakaway attempt for the Golden Knights.
But the senior goaltender had trouble controlling the puck in the first period, and the rebound from wraparound attempt landed on the stick of an open Julien Cayer for a 2-1 Clarkson lead with 2:04 left in the period.
In the second period, the Purple Eagles tied the game, 2-2, when Tyler Gotto's shot from the blue line was deflected by Dowd on the power play and found the back of the net with 13:07 to play.
Clarkson regained the lead, 3-2, when Phil Paquet notched a power-play tally with 3:25 left in the period but Niagara knotted the game. On the power play, Vince Rocco got the puck, stickhandled around a sprawling defender and lifted his shot high to the glove side with 42.5 seconds left in the second.