Niagara will play Rochester Institute of Technology in the Atlantic Hockey Association semifinals at 7:30 p.m. on Friday at Harborcenter.
The Purple Eagles’ opponent wasn’t determined until No. 1 seed AIC defeated No. 7 Army, 4-1, in Springfield, Mass., on Sunday night to win its series, 2-1. It meant that AIC (19-16-1) would face the lowest remaining seed in the semifinals. That was No. 8 Robert Morris (16-21-2), which upset No. 2 Bentley, 3-2, on Sunday in Waltham, Mass., to win that series, 2-1.
Niagara was 1-2-1 against RIT (17-16-4) in the regular season, losing twice in Rochester and gaining a 4-4 tie and a 4-2 victory at Dwyer Arena.
AIC and Robert Morris will play the 4:30 p.m. semifinal on Friday at Harborcenter.
Niagara (16-18-5) earned its spot in the semifinals by defeating Air Force. 5-4, on Saturday night in Colorado Springs, Colo., to sweep the best-of-three series from the two time defending conference tournament champions. The Purple Eagles struck for two even-strength goals in a span of 11 seconds in the second period and held on behind another stellar performance by goalie Brian Wilson, who made 39 saves after stopping 36 shots in a 3-2 overtime victory the night before.
The sophomore goalie from Pickering, Ont., made 18 stops in the second period when Niagara was outshot, 19-2. In the third, he made another 14 at Niagara was outshot, 15-3. In addition, Wilson’s teammates blocked 23 shots in the game.
Although outplayed, the Purple Eagles snapped a 3-3 tie on goals by Kris Spriggs and Nick Farmer in the second period.
Tyler Hayes scored his first goal of the season to give Niagara the lead at 4:42 of the opening period. Air Force struck back for a 2-1 lead but Chris Harpur tied it with his second of the season for Niagara at 16:26 of the first. Then Noah Delmas scored just 6 seconds after Niagara began a 5-on-3 power play with Ludwig Stenlund getting the assist. After the Falcons tied it with a power-play goal in the second, Spriggs and Farmer put Niagara back in front to stay.
RIT reached the semifinals by defeating Sacred Heart, 3-1, on Friday.