It was an opportunity lost for the Niagara men's hockey team.
A lackluster performance through the first two periods cost the Purple Eagles a chance to gain on College Hockey America leader Bemidji State as the Beavers earned a 3-1 win before 1,021 at Dwyer Arena on Thursday.
Bemidji improves its conference mark to 10-4-1, taking a four-point lead over Niagara (8-4-1), in the battle for the regular-season title.
"It's been a bad habit of ours the last six or eight games to have a bad first period," NU senior Vince Rocco said. "We talked about it all week at practice and unfortunately we didn't respond like we should have. . . . When we have four lines rolling it shouldn't be hard jumping over the boards and giving it your all for 40 or 45 seconds. I don't know if it's preparation or what some guys are doing before the game but it's got to stop."
Niagara took a 1-0 lead four minutes into the game when Rocco scored on the power play, set up by Egor Mironov and Ted Cook.
But while the Purple Eagles had the lead, they were outshot, 10-6, in the opening period and Bemidji increasingly gained momentum by jumping on loose pucks and generating quality scoring chances.
The Beavers cashed in midway through the second when Brandon Marino tied the game. Two and half minutes later, Tyler Scofield scored off a feed from Matt Read on a two-on-one break to make it, 2-1.
Bemidji held a 23-17 advantage in shots through the first two periods and outhit and outworked Niagara.
"I was hoping for a more thorough, more spirited effort out of the game which we didn't get," Niagara coach Dave Burkholder said. "Our defense played well -- but our 'D' didn't help us in our transition game at all. When we would come up with a good defensive play we got nothing out of it. It stems from our transition game. The first pass from our 'D' wasn't there and when our forwards had it, we weren't dangerous on the rush at all. That's energy. That's not using our speed."
Niagara picked up the offensive effort in the third, holding an 11-5 advantage in shots, but a power-play goal by Tyler Lehrke at 11:12 made it 3-1 and sealed the win for Bemidji.
"I think we had great energy in the first period we just didn't get rewarded offensively," Bemidji coach Tom Serratore said. "But I thought we carried it through 60 minutes of the hockey game. . . . Do you know how many times we've gotten our brains beaten in this barn? Momentum is a frame of mind and I don't buy into that stuff. We know how good [Niagara] is and they don't lose much at home. You can throw this one out the door. [Tonight] is a different 60 minutes."
Juliano Pagliero recorded 25 saves for Niagara (15-12-12 overall).
The teams meet again at 7 tonight in Dwyer Arena.