By Nate Beutel
NIAGARA FALLS —
So, about that five-game win streak.
Despite scoring four third-period goals, Niagara could not dig itself out of an early 5-0 hole as it dropped a 7-4 Atlantic Hockey decision to visiting Air Force before 1,157 fans at Dwyer Arena Saturday night. It’s the Purple Eagles’ first loss since an Oct. 30 defeat at the hands of Robert Morris.
“What a way for things to come crashing down on a very good run that we were on,” NU coach Dave Burkholder said. “It’s too bad. That’s one of the best teams we’ve played all year, though. They were hungrier, faster to loose pucks and this was probably the first time all year we’ve been out-hit.”
The Falcons (5-5-4 overall, 4-4-4 AHA) scored the first five goals of the game, four of which came on NU starting goalkeeper Andrew Hare, who was 2-0-0 on the season coming into the contest. After the fourth tally early in the second period, Burkholder pulled the sophomore netminder in favor of Carsen Chubak.
"You’re always going to second guess, but he gave us some great minutes on the road at Northeastern and I had a hunch that he’d be OK,” Burkholder said of his decision to start Hare. “Eight shots into the game and you’re down 4-0.... you just don’t know how we would have done if a few of those hadn’t have gone in.”
Jason Fabian and Paul Weisgarber each had two goals for Air Force, which also got markers from Adam McKenzie, Scott Mathis (short-handed) and Blake Page (empty net). Mike Walsh, Jacque Lamoureux and Derrick Burnett had two assists apiece in the win. Jason Torf earned the victory in net for the Falcons, stopping 30 shots.
Niagara (6-4-2, 5-2-0) did score four times in the third period highlighted by freshman Ryan Murphy’s first collegiate goal. Scott Arnold, who Burkholder called the team’s “most consistent player this year,” scored twice to give him seven goals on the season. Brian Haczyk also scored his seventh tally of the year for NU.
“The game plan was to get some shots in on their young guy and that’s what we did in the third period,” Burkholder said. “Nothing fancy, we just started dumping the puck, winning those battles and getting in on our forecheck. We were on top of the cage, too, and guys were rewarded for it. There really is no magic to it. I just wish we would have done it more in the first two periods.”
Niagara wraps up its five-game homestand at 7 p.m. Tuesday when Colgate visits for a non-conference tilt.
“It’s an ECAC team with a lot of history,” Burkholder said of the match up. “We just want to get this thing back going — get those good feelings back. It’s been a good season so far, so we’re going to forget about tonight and get ready for Tuesday."