LEWISTON – It had been a while since Parker Gahagen played with a substantial lead.
The junior goaltender for Army West Point had been solid in net for the last stretch of games, but the Black Knights’ offense was lacking. That meant hard luck results for the Western New York native, who was letting in just one goal but had only losses and ties to show for it.
Friday night, his teammates spotted him three first-period goals and Gahagen came up with an impressive third period as Army defeated Niagara, 4-2, at Dwyer Arena.
“Obviously it took pressure off me to know there were three goals on the board and I knew they were going to come back hard,” said Gahagen. “We’re not usually in that situation so I knew we might let up a bit, which we kinda did, but if we get in that situation again we’ll know what to do with it.”
Gahagen played at Williamsville North and was the New York State player of the year in 2011. He came up with some big saves in the third period as Niagara, trailing 4-1, pressed hard by throwing every puck they could at the 6-2 goalie.
“He made everything look pretty easy,” Niagara coach Dave Burkholder said. “He’s a big body and didn’t make any mistakes. It was a good performance by him and we certainly tested him in the third, that’s for sure.”
He gave up two power-play goals – one in the second to TJ Sarcona and one in the third to Sean King. Other than that, he was dialed in, finishing with 29 saves overall and 13 over the final 20 minutes.
“I was just trying to control rebounds and slow the play down a little bit,” Gahagen said. “Obviously they’re just trying to throw the puck at you and get as many rebounds as they could so I just did anything I could to prevent them from getting to those.
“The second half of the year our defense has been doing well. They’ve allowed me to see the puck better. Also more experience helps you settle in faster and allows you to kind of relax and keep it simple.”
Gahagen, who also played with the Junior Sabres, has had some memorable games against Western New York teams. He notched his first collegiate shutout against Canisius last season and is now 4-3-1 overall against Canisius and Niagara.
“It’s fun to play in this atmosphere in front of family in rinks I’ve grown up with,” Gahagen said.
The win snapped a four-game winless streak for Army West Point (4-9-6 AH) while the loss pushed Niagara (3-14-2) further in the Atlantic Hockey cellar.
“We looked tired,” Burkholder said of his Niagara team. “We didn’t match their work ethic or intensity early on and we didn’t get a save. You’re not going to win many games with goaltending like that.”
While Gahagen was solid for the Black Knights, junior Jackson Teichroeb struggled for Niagara. He made 16 saves on 20 shots and let in goals in the final 35 seconds of the first and second period. Freshman Guillaume Therien replaced him in the third.