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Shaky start costs Niagara in tie with RIT

LEWISTON – Dave Burkholder could tell from the start that his goaltender was fighting the puck. It went from bad to worse as Jackson Teichroeb allowed three goals in about a four-minute span.

The junior didn’t last the entire first period as Burkholder had a quick hook, relieving him with freshman Guillaume Therien.

But Niagara had already dug itself a hole and despite taking a lead in the third period had to settle for its third straight tie in a 4-4 decision with RIT at Dwyer Arena on Friday night.

“You can’t take many positives out of tonight,” Burkholder said. “We did not deserve to win. To have that first period this late in the season, I mean we were chasing our tails for 20 minutes.”

The Purple Eagles had taken a 1-0 lead with Matt Dineen scoring on Niagara’s first shot of the game. But RIT roared back, scoring three on Teichroeb, chasing the starter who made nine saves in 16:04.

It was the second time Teichroeb had been pulled this season and the seventh time that Burkholder has pulled his starter.

“It’s a gut feel,” said Burkholder, himself a former goalie, on pulling his starter. “Jackson was struggling. He probably wants all three back. You can’t start the game giving a team three goals like that. They were all over us in the first period and he drops a puck. That was disheartening. You could tell he didn’t have it tonight. It was just a bad night. I could tell he was fighting it.”

In came Therien for his third relief performance. He knows the scene well, having been yanked in four games himself.

The freshman played well, helping hold RIT to 0 for 5 on the power play and finishing with 26 saves and helping to spark his teammates.

“No matter who’s in net, we obviously want to play for the goalie,” said Stephen Pietrobon. “But I guess when the goalie is cold, we want to work harder.”

The Purple Eagles did battle back, getting a goal in the second from TJ Sarcona then tying the game, 3-3, at 7:40 of the third on a shot by Kevin Patterson. Pietrobon gave Niagara a 4-3 lead with 2:58 left, but RIT finally got one past Therien with 47.8 seconds left in regulation to force overtime.

Niagara held a 2-1 lead in shots in OT – the only time the Purple Eagles had any sustained offensive opportunities.

RIT’s defense, already one of the best in Atlantic Hockey, clamped down tighter as injuries sidelined both their goaltenders. Sophomore Nick Amato, a third-string goalie who played for the school’s club team last season, got the start.

Last weekend against American International, he split the weekend series, giving up seven goals against 30 saves in the two games.

To protect their goalie, the Tigers did everything to keep play away from him, which included blocking 15 shots and cranking out 39 shots against Niagara goaltenders.

“Their D-corps is as good as there is in Atlantic Hockey and maybe college hockey,” Burkholder said. “That’s how good they are. And you know what, they play hard for the new goalie, if you will. They’re tough to penetrate. They were sagging back and trying to trap us and such. We just didn’t get anything going offensively at all.”

Niagara finished with 23 shots, not nearly enough to consistently rattle the unproven Amato.

“When we know that a goalie is unproven, you just want to get shots,” Pietrobon said. “And we just didn’t get enough shots tonight. Hopefully, we’ll get more tomorrow.”

The teams will play at the Polisseni Center in Rochester at 7 p.m. Saturday. Niagara (5-20-6, 5-15-5) will look to keep its point streak alive.

The Purple Eagles have points in five straight games, going 2-0-3 in that span.

email: amoritz@buffnews.com