By MIKE MEILER
Niagara Gazette — The Niagara University Purple Eagles kick off the main part of their Atlantic Hockey Association schedule this weekend when they host Connecticut for a pair of games tonight and Saturday at Dwyer Arena. Both games are scheduled to start at 7 p.m.
If the Purple Eagles (2-2-3, 1-0 AHA) want to expand upon their success from last season, during which they finished one point out of first place, they’ll need to start out strong. With nine conference games in a row before winter break — and 26 of 27 overall — head coach David Burkholder said it’s imperative his team plays well against the Huskies, who’ve traditionally given NU trouble.
“They’re a team we’ve struggled against since joining Atlantic Hockey (in 2010),” he said. “They’re very fast up front and they play great defensively in front of one of the best goalies in Atlantic Hockey.”
NU will answer with a hot goalie of its own in junior Carsen Chubak, who was named AHA Goaltender of the Month for his play in October, when he stopped 194 of 204 shots against for a 1.94 goals against average.
“He’s been the story of our season so far,” Burkholder said. “To come back from two surgeries a year ago and to be playing the way he’s playing is really a testament to his passion and his love for the game.”
The last time the teams met for a weekend series at Dwyer, both squads earned wins. The Huskies took the first game, 8-5, but the Purple Eagles responded with a 4-3 win the following day.
Connecticut enters the series searching for its first win of the season. The Purple Eagles are coming off a win and a tie at Clarkson last weekend.
“We’re really excited,” Burkholder said. “We’ve played five of seven on the road. We’re excited to be back at Dwyer and excited to start conference play. Every point in Atlantic hockey is big.”