Niagara's women's hockey team was sorely lacking in two areas last season -- offense and backup goaltending.
With a pair of weekend wins over Northeastern by a combined score of 13-2, it seems the problems are solved.
On Saturday afternoon, Niagara (2-2) dominated the Huskies with a 6-0 win in front of 278 at Dwyer Arena. It marks the first time the Purple Eagles ever swept a weekend series with Hockey East's Northeastern (0-2).
"I'm really happy with our growth and our level of maturity as a whole team," Niagara coach Margot Page said. "They know what it takes now, how to play their own tempo and play with the gifts they have."
Last year's youth and inexperience have given way to a team that's comfortable playing with each other. That level of ease, and a year to develop better skills, have translated into a confidence on the ice. With a solid defensive zone style, the Purple Eagles were able to generate crisp breakouts and an impressive flow in the offensive zone.
Holding a commanding 35-12 advantage in shots on goal, Niagara created a plethora of offensive opportunities.
Junior Amy Jack got the Purple Eagles on the board just over six minutes into the game when her wraparound shot beat goalie Marisa Hourihan on her glove side.
Sophomore Katie Kofron scored her first collegiate goal to give Niagara a 2-0 lead at the first intermission. A power-play goal by Chelsea Donovan was the only tally in the second while freshman Charde Hoyle-Levy and senior Candice Moxley scored in the third. Sophomore Katie Gray added an empty-netter to round out the scoring.
"I think we're 100 percent better than last year," said Jack, who took a game-high eight shots on goal. "Part of that comes off the ice. Everyone is working hard and everyone realizes we can win. We know we can win and that's a huge difference."
Though freshman Nikki Rudy had to make just 12 saves to record her first collegiate win and shutout, she made some impressive stops and broke up potential plays. A solid Niagara defense along with smart play by Rudy helped Niagara kill off six Northeastern power plays. Rudy's solid play can help Niagara give starter Allison Rutledge a rest as the season wears on.
Freshman standout Ashley Riggs didn't register a point, but made her presence felt. She took six shots on goal and nearly everyone followed an impressive combination of moves, strength and speed. But for a bounce, or great save by Hourihan, Riggs should have had a multi-point day.
"It's not just our freshman, although our freshman are playing great," Page said. "It's the entire team. They're playing well and at a high speed . . . and we're playing well without the puck. It's hard work when you don't have the puck. You tend to relax and we're doing a good job of working hard and getting to open spaces."