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Niagara's power play proves decisive Fast start boosts Purple Eagles past Canisius

LEWISTON -- For most of the evening, the ice at Dwyer Arena featured special teams.

As often happens in the annual Canisius-Niagara hockey clash, there were plenty of penalty minutes to go around.

And as would be expected, it was Niagara that took advantage of the situation.

The Purple Eagles scored three power-play goals, jumped out to a 4-0 lead and went on to earn a 6-2 win over Canisius in front of 1,541.

"The last three or four games we got off to slow starts and we knew this game we had to come out hard and come out firing right away," Niagara forward Sean Bentivoglio said. "In games with a lot of penalties you have to capitalize on your chances and we did."

Niagara now has won three straight and five of its last six games, improving to 11-6-3 overall and 7-0-1 at home.

Canisius, meanwhile, continues to struggle on the road, falling to 0-8-1 away from home and 4-13-1 overall.

Niagara jumped out to a 1-0 lead about seven minutes into the game when Les Reaney tipped in a shot from Chris Moran on the power play.

Bentivoglio added another power-play tally four minutes later and Matt Caruana grabbed his own rebound to beat Bryce Luker a few seconds after another power play had just expired.

"I thought when the game was on the line in the first period, their power play executed and ours did not," Canisius coach Dave Smith said. "Consequently that gave them momentum and it took us a lot of effort to try and come back from it. . . . We lost the special teams game and Niagara beat us to the loose pucks around the net."

In the second, Canisius changed goalies, putting in Andrew Loewen, who enjoyed some better success at stopping the Niagara offense. Still, Reaney made it 4-0 when he found himself alone in front of Loewen and beat him in the upper right corner.

Josh Heidinger got Canisius on the board with 57 seconds left in the period with a power-play goal.

The Golden Griffins made it a 4-2 when Jason Weeks added another power-play goal with 13:54 left in the third period. In all, Canisius generated 28 shots on goal on the power play but Niagara goaltender Juliano Pagliero played a strong game, earning his third straight win while making 39 saves.

"[Pagliero] is only a sophomore and he's really maturing," Niagara coach Dave Burkholder said. "He was solid tonight. He was seeing everything, especially on the power play. He was fighting through screens and made some big saves."

Making it an official Canisius-Niagara game, a game disqualification came with just under seven minutes to play.

Canisius' Spencer Churchill punched Bentivoglio in the head as the officials sorted out another roughing call, giving Niagara a five-minute power play.

During the power play, Canisius took another penalty and Niagara worked the five-on-three patiently until Ted Cook scored to extend the lead to 5-2. Caruana added an empty-net goal to close out the scoring.

Luker made 12 saves in the first period and Loewen had 27 as Niagara held a 45-41 advantage in shots.

Niagara has won the last two meetings between the schools and leads the series, 11-5-1. The Purple Eagles will be on the road next weekend for single games at Colgate and RIT.

The Griffs have lost all five of their non-conference games and return to Atlantic Hockey action with a home series against Army next weekend.

e-mail: amoritz@buffnews.com

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