Like a number of Niagara's wins this season, Saturday's 3-2 triumph over Robert Morris in the College Hockey America men's semifinals in Detroit wasn't pretty.
But as far as the Purple Eagles are concerned, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
When sophomore Matt Caruana redirected a point shot by Dan Sullivan past Robert Morris goalie Christian Boucher with 1:08 left, that snapped a 2-2 knot and enabled Niagara to advance to the CHA final for the second time in three seasons.
"We just win some games ugly," coach Dave Burkholder said. "It's all about getting to the NCAA Tournament, and we're 60 minutes away from achieving that goal."
NU will play defending champ Bemidji State for the title at 3:05 this afternoon in the Michigan State Fairgrounds Arena. Niagara beat Bemidji in the 2004 final in overtime, 4-3, to advance to its second NCAA Tournament.
Senior goalie Jeff Van Nynatten made 11 of his 36 saves in the third period. Sean Bentivoglio and Patrick Oliveto also scored for Niagara (20-14-1).
The Niagara women's team plays Mercyhurst for the title for the third year in a row. NU is 0-10-1 in its last 11 games against Mercyhurst.
College Sports Television, available to DISH Network (Ch. 152) and DirecTV (Ch. 610) subscribers, will carry both CHA title games, as will Radio 1440 AM.
Tommy Flikeid scored both goals for Canisius in a 7-2 loss to Mercyhurst (22-12-1) in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic Hockey Association Tournament in Erie, Pa. The Golden Griffins finished 10-23-2.
SOFTBALL: Winning pitcher Sophie Barstad hit a three-run homer during a four-run 10th inning in the University at Buffalo's 7-4 win over Boston University in the Adidas Tournament in Clearwater, Fla. UB opened the day with a 3-1 loss to Illinois-Chicago.
Niagara (5-2) beat Delaware, 5-4, in eight innings and followed with 3-2 win over Brown in the Mason Dixon Classic in Virginia Beach, Va. Nicole Sum's squeeze bunt drove in the winning run in the opener. Tory Healy hit a two-run homer in the second game and doubled in the winning run in the sixth. . . . St. Bonaventure dropped a 5-4 decision to Toledo in 10 innings in Orlando, Fla. Kera Strong had two hits for Bona. . . . Lori Gilbert had one of Canisius' four hits in a 7-2 loss to Iowa State in DeLand, Fla.
BASEBALL: Junior outfielder Joe Rizzo went 3 for 5 during St. Bonaventure's 5-4 loss in 11 innings to Monmouth in Boca Raton, Fla. . . . Freshman Brad Agustin (Williamsville East) extended his hitting streak to six games during UB's 21-3 loss to No. 24 Southern Mississippi. . . . Canisius (3-10) was swept at Appalachian State, 6-4 and 7-0. Gabe Baida went 1 for 2 with a run scored and RBI in the opener.
WOMEN'S LACROSSE: Ashley Gray notched two goals and three assists in Canisius' 13-11 win over visiting Central Connecticut.
BOWLING: Mike Feldman of Erie Community College averaged 204.4 over 12 games to win the men's all-events and the ECC women captured the team title for the 25th time in the National Junior College Athletic Association bowling championships at AMF Lancaster Lanes.
Vincennes (Ind.) University captured the men's team title for the 14th time, while Bethan McGerry of Community College of Allegheny County-South in Pittsburgh won the women's all-events title, averaging 190.0.
Feldman and McGerry received the Kerm Helmer Award for their victories. The award is named for the late ECC coach.
Feldman and teammate Andrew Lajoy earned All-America honors for finishing in the top five in all events. ECC's Amanda Fogarty also earned All-America honors, jumping into fifth place on her last ball of the day. She and Kristen Nielsen won the women's doubles on Friday.