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Niagara hockey looks to sophomore class for a rebound season

Niagara Purple Eagles

Coach: Dave Burkholder (16th season, 242-248-65)

Last year: Niagara finished in 10th place in Atlantic Hockey with a 6-25-6 mark, their worst in program history. They lost in three games in the Atlantic Hockey quarterfinals to Canisius.

Key losses: Perhaps the best news for Niagara is that while they lose some leadership in the senior class, they return most of their production. They will miss forward Dan Kolenda who had 12 points in 24 games his senior season, tied for third-best.

Key returners: The junior and sophomore classes have been stacked with talent. Derian Plouffe led the team in scoring last year with 11 goals and 18 points. Look for improvements from sophomores Nick Farmer (13 points) and Nicko Kovachis (13 points). Ryan Kuhn had an inconsistent freshman year with one goal and nine points in 30 games, but look for him to be more comfortable.  As a senior, Vinny Muto should be solid on the blueline again and senior center TJ Sarcona could use a solid season to put a stamp on his collegiate career. The best news for the Purps is that senior goaltender Jackson Teichroeb is healthy.

Biggest question mark: There are plenty of areas for Niagara to improve on the ice, most pressing being goal scoring. The Purple Eagles averaged just 1.92 goals a game last year – ranking third worst in all of college hockey. But the other key component will be team chemistry. Last season was a mess, including an early-season dismissal of juniors Pat Conte and Phil Nasca. The 10 freshman last year may have been the glue that kept the wheels from completely falling off. Now as sophomores, they need to find their voice for leadership and accountability.

Burkholder on the sophomore class and the locker room: “I think part of what’s gone wrong is we just haven’t come together as a team. Last year was clicky and those 10 guys were unified. We have to get our locker room 100 percent in and we have a strong unit of terrific kids and good students. I think we’re in good hands and I’m excited to get after it this year.”

2016-17 Schedule
(home games at Dwyer Arena, all times ET)
Oct. 7 vs. Holy Cross, 7:05 p.m.
Oct. 8 vs. Holy Cross, 7:05 p.m.
Oct. 18 at Mercyhurst, 7:05 p.m.
Oct. 21 at Rensselaer, 7 p.m.
Oct. 28 vs. Ohio State, 7:05 p.m.
Oct. 29 vs. Ohio State, 7:05 p.m.
Nov. 3 at Penn State, 7 p.m.
Nov. 4 at Penn State, 7 p.m.
Nov. 15 vs. Mercyhurst, 7:05 p.m.
Nov. 18 at Sacred Heart, 7:05 p.m.
Nov. 19 at Sacred Heart, 7:05 p.m.
Nov. 26 at AIC, 7:05 p.m.
Nov. 27 at AIC, 7:05 p.m.
Dec. 2 vs. RIT, 7:05 p.m.
Dec. 3 vs. RIT, 7:05 p.m.
Dec. 9 at Air Force, 9:05 p.m.
Dec. 10 at Air Force, 7:05 p.m.
Jan. 6 at Holy Cross, 7:05 p.m.
Jan. 7 at Holy Cross, 7:95 p.m.
Jan. 13 vs. Bentley, 7:05 p.m.
Jan. 14 vs. Bentley, 3:05 p.m.
Jan. 20 vs. AIC, 7:05 p.m.
Jan. 21 vs. AIC, 7:05 p.m.
Jan. 24 at Canisius, 7:35 p.m.
Jan. 27 at Mercyhurst, 7:05 p.m.
Jan. 28 vs. Mercyhurst, 7:05 p.m.
Jan. 31 vs. Canisius, 7:05 p.m.
Feb. 10 at Army West Point, 7:05 p.m.
Feb. 11 at Army West Point, 7:05 p.m.
Feb. 15 at Canisius, 7:35 p.m.
Feb. 17 vs. Canisius, 7:05 p.m.
Feb. 24 vs. Robert Morris, 7:05 p.m.
Feb. 25 vs. Robert Morris, 7:05 p.m
March 3-5 Atlantic Hockey First Round, Campus Sites
March 10-12 Atlantic Hockey Quarterfinals, Campus Sites
March 17 Atlantic Hockey Semifinals, at Blue Cross Arena
March 18 Atlantic Hockey Championship, at Blue Cross Arena



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