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Niagara looks to break free of longest losing streak to start a season

There's no panic in the Niagara Purple Eagle's locker room.

That's a good thing. Because the numbers, well, aren't very pretty.

Niagara is off to a 0-6 start, its longest losing streak to start a season and the worst start since the program went 0-8-2 to begin the 2009-10 season. That year, the Purps tied Colgate in their season opener then lost eight straight. They tied Robert Morris then picked up their first win, 4-1, against Rensselaer on Nov. 18.

Combined with that, the Purps have been blown out twice -- a 10-2 loss at home to St. Lawrence and a 7-0 loss at Notre Dame on national television.

That's the first time in the 17-year Division I history of the program that the team has lost by seven or more goals twice in one season. For the record, the worst loss in Niagara men's hockey history came on Oct. 20, 2006 when they lost at Nebraska-Omaha, 10-1.

"As a program and as a team, we're still very confident in this group," Niagara coach Dave Burkholder said. "There's no panic inside our locker room. It's a tough schedule and that's usually what happens in early October. The injury component of it was unforeseen ... but we're fighting through it.

"We're a good hockey team and sticking together, this will make us stronger. We've always said we'd rather be great in March than good in October. It's not a big deal to be the national team of the month in October. We're not concerned about that."

The good news for Niagara is that some players have returned from injury including forwards Isaac Kohls, Robert Angiolella and Chris Lochner along with defensmen Kevin Albers and Tyelr Akeson.

Sophomore blueliner Vince Muto is out until Christmas with a broken bone in his arm. Sophomore forward T.J. Sarcona is still weeks away with a broken wrist. However sophomore goalie Jackson Teichroeb is back skating -- the first time since mid-September when he suffered a hamstring injury in the team's intrasquad game. He is day-to-day but Niagara will be happy to get him back as sophomore Adrian Ignagni has been struggling at times, particularly with playing back-to-back nights.

"Hee’s know it’s his show," Burkholder said of Ignagni. "He's still finding his 60-mintue game. I can say that for a lot of guys on our team. That's what happens in October."

True. It's October and Niagara has faced some quality competition. St. Lawrence has knocked off some top-20 teams. Robert Morris, the defending Atlantic Hockey champion, is undefeated. Notre Dame is, well Notre Dame.

Still there are some things the Purps need to get better at, including breaking out of their own zone, taking advantage of the power play and being more disciplined on the penalty kill.

In that Saturday blowout to Notre Dame, Niagara was trailing, 3-0, after the first period as the Irish scored a power play goal during a five-minute major. The Irish then put in two more quickly at even strength to close out the first 20 minutes.

It was familiar territory. Niagara trailed Notre Dame, 4-0, on Friday before scoring a pair of power play goals to force the Irish to earn that 6-3 victory. And the Purple Eagles were in a perfect position to get themselves back in the game with three power play opportunities to start the second period.

They failed to convert on any of them.

Then while on the penalty kill, twice, Niagara players took penalties for cross-checking a Notre Dame player in front of their own net. The over aggressiveness cost the Purps on the scoreboard and in momentum.

This weekend Niagara looks to get out of its funk when it hosts American International in an Atlantic Hockey series. AIC is winless in its first five games, going 0-3-1 in conference and 0-4-1 overall. The teams meet at 7 p.m. in Dwyer Arena on Friday and Saturday.

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