Niagara Gazette

Sports

February 21, 2013

NU maintains focus against Mercyhurst

Niagara Gazette — The Niagara hockey team did what it set out to this season when it clinched the Atlantic Hockey regular season championship last weekend.

It's an impressive achievement, but in the big picture, just a small accomplishment. The Purple Eagles want to maintain their national ranking, and in the long run, might have to for a NCAA Tournament bid. This week, they are No. 15 in the USA Today poll and are 16th in the USCHO.com poll.

Niagara also wants to stay highly ranked in the PairWise rankings, which currently has it 10th. The Purple Eagles are 18-3-2 in conference play and 19-6-5 overall.

With those things in mind, they play a home-and-home series this weekend against Mercyhurst. The two clubs skate at 7 tonight in Dwyer Arena before concluding the series Saturday night in Erie, Pa. The Lakers are 12-9-2 in Atlantic Hockey and reside in third place with 26 points. They are only three points out of second place, but also only four points ahead of ninth-place Canisius.

On Tuesday, NU coach Dave Burkholder had a meeting with the Niagara seniors regarding the club’s focus.

“We talked about what is at stake in these last four games with the PairWise rankings, and the potential at-large bid,” said Burkholder, whose club has an 19-game unbeaten streak at home, three shy of the school record. “Obviously, that is huge and has our attention. We have the unbeaten streak at Dwyer Arena that goes back to last year, and we have a chance to go a whole year without losing on home ice, and it is Senior Night.

“If you add those together, we are going to be pretty focused come Friday night when the referees show up.”

Two notable things transpired last weekend. Not exactly news anymore, but perhaps worth a quick closer look.

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