LEWISTON -- Niagara took an early lead and again dominated in shots on goal, but failed to find a way to win. The Purple Eagles dropped a 3-2 decision to Mercyhurst at Dwyer Arena Saturday night.
Niagara went up 1-0 but trailed 2-1 by the end of the first despite holding a 17-6 advantage in shots during the stanza.
The Lakers built a 3-1 lead in the second but Niagara got it back to a one-goal game on a goal by Derian Plouffe in the second.
In the third Niagara had plenty of chances but couldn’t cash in. For the game they held a 43-26 advantage in shots – a similar feeling to Friday’s 3-2 loss to the Lakers in Erie, Pa., when Niagara held a 35-18 lead in shots on goal.
Records: Mercyhurst swept the weekend series to improve to 8-6-0 in Atlantic Hockey and 10-10-0 overall. Niagara’s losing streak extended to five games. The Purple Eagles fell to 3-10-1 in conference play and 3-15-2 overall. The teams meet for another home-and-home series Feb. 12-13.
Power play goal. Finally. Niagara came into Saturday on an 0 for 23 power play skid. That ended at 6:01 of the first when the Purple Eagles commanded good zone time with some solid passing and space. A half shot/half pass from Stanislav Dzakhov ended up on the stick of Sean King, who buried the puck into an open net for the 1-0 Niagara lead.
Lakers take the lead: With the teams skating four on four, the Lakers tied the game as Tommasco Bucci stole the puck from Matt Dineen at Niagara's blue line, walked in on a breakaway and scored on the forehand. It goes down as an even strength goal at 11:54 and as Bucci's first collegiate goal. It was then Dineen who was in the box for interference when Anthony Mastrodicasa scored on the power play for a 2-1 Lakers' lead at 14:59.
About special teams: The whistles were plentiful, and even, in the first period with each team getting three penalties and both Niagara and Mercyhurst going 1 for 3 on the power play in the opening 20 minutes.
Goalie change: When Wes Baker scored at 3:50 of the second period it was the end of the game for Niagara starting goalie Joe O'Brien. The freshman had let in three goals on eight shots, the final two goals after he made the initial save but never finished the play.
Getting one back: Niagara made it a one-goal game when Dzahkov forced a turnover and Derian Plouffe picked up the lose puck. He tucked it under Adam Carlson's arm, cutting the Mercyhurst lead to 3-2 with 3:54 left in the second.
Welcome back: It was the first time in Dwyer Arena as a visitor for Greg Gardner. The assistant coach for Mercyhurst was the goaltender who helped build the Niagara franchise, backstopping the team to the NCAA Final Eight in 2000. Gardner led the NCAA in goals against average that season (1.53) and set an NCAA record for shutouts in a season with 12. He was an assistant with the Purple Eagles from 2006-11 before moving on to Princeton and then Mercyhurst.
Scratches: Niagara scratched Devin Campbell, Nick Cecere, Luke Edwards, Matt Chiarantano, Brock Edwards and Chris Paulin while sophomore forward Robert Angiolella remains sidelined with an injury.
Counting the house: Attendance was 615 with the students still on break.
Up next: Niagara makes its first ever visit to HarborCenter when they face Canisius at 7:35 p.m. Thursday. The teams will meet again at 3:05 p.m. on Saturday. Niagara does not return to Dwyer until Jan. 29 when the Purple Eagles host Army for two games.