LEWISTON – Despite dominating the first period, Niagara couldn’t find the back of the net. That lack of finishing touch came back to hurt the Purple Eagles as they dropped a 4-2 decision to American International College at Dwyer Arena Saturday night.
The Purple Eagles carried play for the first 20 minutes, outshooting AIC, 16-1, but failed to score. The Yellow Jackets took advantage of Niagara penalties in the second period by going 2 for 3 on the power play and building a 3-0 lead.
“Unfortunately our first period was our best,” coach Dave Burkholder said. “We threw everything we had at them and they didn’t blink. That’s college hockey.”
Niagara inched back, and a goal by Dan Kolenda with 5:56 left in the third made it a 3-2 game, but an empty-net goal by Chris Porter with 10 seconds left sealed the win for AIC.
Records: The teams split the weekend series. Niagara slipped to 1-7-2 overall, 1-2-1 in Atlantic Hockey. AIC improved to 2-11-0 overall, 2-6-0 in Atlantic Hockey.
Cashing in on power plays: AIC broke a scoreless tie 1:49 into the second. Both Niko Kovachis and Sean King were called for hooking, giving the Yellow Jackets a 5-on-3 for two minutes. It took them just 21 seconds to cash in with Austin Orszulark beating Guillaume Therien for a 1-0 lead.
“Obviously it’s a horrible call,” Burkholder said. “Not too often with the two-man referee system do you get two calls, two different infractions, on the same.” play. “That’s a tough break. But we have to kill them. And we didn’t.”
Another hooking call, this one to Pat Conte, gave AIC another power play and they scored again, this time a tally by Ryan Polin for a 2-0 lead.
Special teams: Niagara went 0 for 6 on the power play while AIC was 2 for 4.
Goalie change: After Therien gave up his third goal on the 10th shot he faced, Burkholder pulled him, putting in freshman Joe O’Brien.
“We need a save. C’mon,” Burkholder said of the goalie change. “Power play or not, I just thought ‘Let’s try to spark the team.’”
On the board: Trailing, 3-0, Niagara got on the board at 15:04 of the second when Luke Edwards had the puck behind the net and fed Derian Plouffe, who was alone in front of AIC goalie Alex Murray. Plouffe had all the time he needed to beat Murray and place the puck high for his third goal of the season.
Making it close: Kolenda scored off an assist from Larry Smith after much commotion in front of the AIC net. The goal with 5:56 left in the third cut the Yellow Jackets’ lead to 3-2.
When a goal isn’t a goal: Twice Niagara appeared to score on an early power play in the first period. The first came when AIC goalie Murray made the save on a shot by Ryan Kuhn but struggled to control the puck as it went backward. The call on the ice was no-goal (although the goal horn went and the celebration music started). Upon review the call was affirmed. Then the Purple Eagles clearly put the puck in the net when it was loose in front of Murray and poked in by Kuhn. But the official had blown a quick whistle before the puck crossed the line, negating the play.
Scratched: Niagara was without Robert Angiolella, TJ Sarcona, Matt Chiarantano and Jackson Teichroeb with injuries, while Devin Campbell, Phillip Nasca, Albin Karlsson and Brock Edwards were out by coach’s decision.
Counting the house: 900
Up next: Niagara travels to Holy Cross for a pair of games Nov. 27-28. The Purple Eagles return to Dwyer Dec. 4-5 when they host Bentley.