Just short of 1,600 attend Saturday's game at the Dwyer Arena.
By Thomas Baldwin Niagara Gazette
The Niagara hockey team was without five regulars on Saturday night.
So what. It didn’t matter.
In a testament to their depth, the Purple Eagles persevered in a 6-4 victory over the Rochester Institute of Technology in a ferociously fought game at Dwyer Arena on Saturday night.
The 1,559 who attended saw the Purple Eagles storm to a convincing early 3-0 lead en route to an apparent blowout. But the Tigers were resourceful in mounting a comeback which made Niagara indeed sweat mightily before finally emerging victorious.
In a show of balance as well as depth, five players scored for Niagara. Defenseman C.J. Chartrain led with two goals while Ryan Rashid, Patrick Divjak, Marc Zanette and Dan Kolenda also scored.
Niagara - ranked 17th nationally - took three out of four points from the Tigers this weekend and are now 14-1-2 in Atlantic Hockey and 15-4-5 overall. The Purple Eagles are 5-1-1 in their last seven.
Niagara was without leading scorer Giancarlo Iuorio for the sixth straight game, along with Isaac Kohls. Also missing were Matt Williams, Hugo Turcotte and Matt Chartrain.
“It is never going to be perfect, but I thought it was a gutsy win,” Niagara coach Dave Burkholder said of the triumph. “The momentum swings were unbelievable. There is a lot of character in that room, and they stuck with it. We would score one and they would score one.
“It felt like a game from the 80’s with the Edmonton Oilers. The last shot wins. A lot of guys have been asked to get more ice time because we have a short bench. As a team, I couldn’t be more proud of guys coming through for us.”
After Rashid gave Niagara a 1-0 lead, Chartrain and Zanette scored just 49 seconds apart for a 3-0 lead in the first period. But RIT’s Mike Colavecchia scored at the end of the period and Chris Saracino scored early in the second to get the Tigers back in the game at 3-2.
However, Chartrain and Divjak scored 10 minutes apart in the second period to restore Niagara’s three-goal lead at 5-2. Divjak’s goal proved to be the eventual game winner when he appeared to jam a loose puck past RIT goaltender Jordan Ruby with just under five minutes to go in the period.
It was an especially sweet night for Chartrain, whose goals were his first two of the season.
“It is nice to get the first two out of the way,” he said. “I have been a little snakebit lately. It is great to get the win.”
Josh Watson started in goal for the Tigers but was yanked midway through the second period after surrendering four goals on just 15 shots. Niagara goaltender Carsen Chubak stopped 35 shots.
Both teams converted three of their six power play opportunities. Niagara outshot the Tigers 39-36.
The Purple Eagles will look to continue rolling next weekend when they host Bentley on Friday and Saturday at 7:05 p.m.