LEWISTON -- Originally, coach Dave Burkholder was thinking of giving his starting senior goaltender a rest.
After all, Juliano Pagliero had been struggling and fighting the puck through the first five games.
But Burkholder's assistant coaches convinced him to stay with Pagliero.
Turned out to be a good call.
Pagliero recorded 31 saves for his sixth career shutout as Niagara (2-3-1) took a 1-0 win over Merrimack in front of 1,442 at Dwyer Arena Saturday.
"He's a work in progress and today he finally won the game for us," Burkholder said. "Last year he did that a ton of times for us . . . And this is the game that's a spring board for him now."
Pagliero hasn't been the only upperclassman struggling.
It's been a slow start for typically big offensive guns Vince Rocco and Ted Cook.
And the power play that has been a staple of Niagara's success in the past has been flat.
The Purple Eagles have just six goals in 40 power play attempts and Saturday went just 1 for 9 with the man-advantage.
"I wish we could figure it out," Rocco said. "We're passing the puck well. We just need to find seams and get some shots through. We were getting looks and had a couple of good chances tonight. It's just not bouncing our way out there. But it will come. It's just a matter of time."
The time seems to be now for the freshmen who have made their mark already. Among four rookies, they have collected five goals, seven assists and 12 points.
One of those goals came Saturday as freshman Sam Goodwin scored his first collegiate goal on the power play at 8:30 of the second period.
"It's nice to get that first one and I guess it's better that it helped out the team tonight," Goodwin said. "Hopefully there are more to come. . . . The freshmen in the last couple of games have been helping out our team and it's good right now and it's good for the future of our team."
While the power play generated chances but failed to connect, the penalty kill, led by Pagliero was impressive.
Merrimack (2-2-1) had 3:04 of a 5-on-3 power play time but failed to beat Pagliero. The Warriors held a 31-16 advantage in shots.
"He needed this," Rocco said of Pagliero. "He admitted he wasn't as sharp as he could have been the last five games and this is a definite confidence builder for him."