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NU will keep it simple vs. Mercyhurst

Their opponent continues to be one of the top teams in women's Division I hockey, but for Niagara, the key to the weekend series is pretty much the same as always.

Stay out of the penalty box and get timely scoring. Nothing fancy. Just simple hockey.

That's the plan for Niagara when it hosts No. 5 Mercyhurst at 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday in Dwyer Arena.

"We're more of a defensive team and they lead the country in most offensive categories," Niagara coach Chris MacKenzie said. "We have to do a good job staying out of the penalty box. We have to keep the game five-on-five. We can't have it become a special-teams game.

"And then we need some timely goal scoring, which has come the last four games. Hopefully, it will come this weekend, too."

The Purple Eagles are on a four-game winning streak since returning from their month-long semester break. Now 8-12-4 overall, the team is in second place in College Hockey America at 5-2-1 after sweeping Syracuse last weekend.

"We're finding ways to win games and it starts with our goalie, Jenni Bauer," MacKenzie said. "Everyone is playing a little better. It's been a total team effort.

"I think the staff has done a good job keeping it positive. We had a month-long break and a lot of our players maybe needed the break. They had time to reflect on what they needed to do to improve and the first two weekends back everyone seems refreshed with a lot of energy."

That energy will be needed in the series with the Lakers, who are 9-0-0 in the CHA and 20-5-0 overall.

The Lakers beat the Purple Eagles in both previous conference meetings this year by a combined score of 13-3, but one of their losses came in a non-conference game in Dwyer Arena on Nov. 16, 4-3, in overtime.

For similar results, Niagara will need to contain a potent Lakers' offense. Mercyhurst leads the country in goals per game (5.56), with senior Meghan Agosta the nation's leading scorer with 62 points (26 goals, 36 assists).

By contrast, the leading scorer for Niagara is Kristen Richards with 11 points (the team averages 1.5 goals per game).

Niagara has the nation's eighth-best penalty killing unit (88.9 percent, 96 for 108).

e-mail: amoritz@buffnews.com