It was a solid result followed by a forgettable performance for Niagara last weekend. After earning a 3-3 tie with Atlantic Hockey favorite Robert Morris, the Purple Eagles came up flat in an 8-2 loss to the Colonials the next night. Niagara steps out of conference play for a home-and-home series with Cornell as the Big Red opens its regular season. The teams play at Dwyer at 7 on Friday then travel to Lynah Rink on Saturday.
Three things to watch this weekend:
1. Tightening up the defense. Heading into the season, coach Dave Burkholder said the strength of his team would be his defensive corps. The entire Niagara team needs to find better play in their own zone. The Purps are giving up an average of 40 shots against a game -- the second most in Division I. With freshmen goalies getting the nod while junior Jackson Teichroeb continues to come back from an undisclosed preseason injury, Niagara needs a better defensive effort.
2. Can the freshman stay hot? Nick Farmer and Ryan Kuhn started their collegiate careers with three-game point streaks before being held off the score sheet in that 8-2 loss. Farmer has two goals and an assist while Kuhn has a goal and two assists. The duo have played together and their speed has created offensive opportunities. If they can continue to cash in, they can help alleviate those defensive zone problems.
3. Special teams. The Purps have just one power play goal in 11 attempts. The penalty kill hasn't been much more successful, allowing seven goals against in 16 power plays for opponents. Coaches love to point to the special teams game and if Niagara can get just a tad better in both, the Purps will put themselves in a better position to pick up their first win of the season. Although maybe not against Cornell. Niagara is 2-12 against the Big Red with the only wins coming on neutral ice in 1999 and 2000.