Niagara Gazette — The Niagara Purple Eagles came away big winners in Rochester on Thursday, and the games hadn't even started yet.
NU came away with three major Atlantic Hockey awards, with Dave Burkholder winning Coach of the Year, Mark Zanette winning Defensive Forward of the Year and goaltender Carsen Chubak coming away with conference Player of the Year, as well as being named a top-10 finalist for the Hobey Baker, college hockey's national player of the year award.
After sweeping RIT in the Atlantic Hockey quarterfinals, the No. 14/15 Niagara hockey team will continue its quest for its first AHA Tournament title against another local rival when the Purple Eagles play Canisius in the semifinal at 4:05 p.m. today at the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester.
The Purple Eagles (23-8-5, 20-5-2 AHA) took the season series 2-1, shutting out the Golden Griffins, 2-0, at Dwyer Arena and splitting a pair of road games played at Buffalo State.They earned a spot in the semifinals following a sweep over RIT at Dwyer last weekend, capped by Zanette's overtime goal.
"When the game was on the line, we made plays and they didn't," Burkholder said. "It was a tough, hard-fought series, but we were able to finish when it mattered."
NU's top line of Zanette, Giancarlo Iuorio and Ryan Murphy carried the team offensively, combining for eight points in the two games. Iuorio had two goals and an assist in the opener, while Murphy finished with three assists.
The Purps' penalty killers managed to keep the No. 2 power play in the country off the board in seven attempts, led by Chubak, who stopped 59 shots on the weekend.
Canisius (17-18-5, 12-13-2) swept Bentley in the first round of the postseason, then swept second-seeded Air Force in the quarterfinals. NU was swept by Air Force in the final two games of the regular season, during which the Purple Eagles were outscored 11-3.