BY MIKE MEILER
Niagara Gazette — It didn’t go according to plan, but the No. 20 Niagara Purple Eagles beat the winless Sacred Heart Pioneers, 5-3, Friday night in an Atlantic Hockey Association matchup.
Ryan Murphy scored the go-ahead goal with 13:26 left in the third period and added two assists and senior Giancarlo Iuorio scored two goals in front of 903 at Dwyer Arena who witnessed NU head coach Dave Burkholder earn his 200th-career win.
“It’s a number,” Burkholder said after the game. “I haven’t really thought much about it. I don’t know if it’s part of the storyline. It’s all about the players and the streak that we’re on.
“I’ve had some unbelievable assistant coaches and some great players that have come through the program. I’m very lucky.”
The NU players were a little more willing to give their coach credit.
“It’s good that we can give something back to him, because he’s always there for us,” said senior co-captain Jason Beattie, who played his first game of the season in the win. “Burk bleeds purple. He’s been here since the beginning of it and to be able to come through here and have 200 wins, that’s a statement in itself.”
“It’s a milestone, just like a player getting 100 points,” said senior Marc Zanette, who had a goal and two assists in the game. “We take the milestone pretty seriously, and he was pretty excited to get the puck at the end of the game.”
NU freshman Dan Kolenda opened the scoring when he deflected Patrick Divjak’s wrist shot 14:56 into the opening period.
Sacred Heart answered, scoring two goals off odd bounces that found their way through Niagara goalie Carsen Chubak. Chubak, who entered the game leading the nation in shutouts, goals against average and save percentage, had an off night, allowing three goals on 26 shots.
Iuorio, the Purple Eagles’ leading scorer, scored on a low wrister from the slot to tie the game at 2 at the 11:46 mark of the second period. Minutes later, Zanette scored on the power play to give the Eagles a lead, but a defensive breakdown off the ensuing faceoff allowed the Pioneers to tie the game just nine seconds later.
The teams battled to a scoreless tie early in the third, until Murphy put back a rebound to take the lead. Iuorio capped off the scoring with his 11th of the season, firing a hard wrist shot just under the cross bar.
The line of Murphy, Iuorio and Zanette combined for eight points on the night. The Eagles finished November with a perfect 7-0 record and sit atop the AHA with 16 points.
With the win, the Eagles improved to 9-2-3 on the season, including 8-0-0 in league play. They’ll put their seven-game winning streak on the line tonight in the second game of a back-to-back with the Pioneers (0-11-2, 0-8-2) at 7 p.m. at Dwyer Arena.
Nick Melligan (Niagara-Wheatfield) scored two goals to lead Buffalo State in a 7-3 win at Fredonia.