Niagara Gazette — Isaac Kohls and Patrick Conte spearheaded the Niagara offense as the Purple Eagles completed a weekend sweep over Western New York rival RIT with a 5-1 victory on Saturday evening in Atlantic Hockey action at Ritter Arena.
Kohls and Conte each notched a pair of goals, while the Purple Eagles (7-14-3, 7-7-3) also received offensive contributions from TJ Sarcona (1-0-1) and Sam Alfieri (0-2-0). Niagara goaltender Adrian Ignagni earned the start in net for the second consecutive night and smothered 40 RIT shots, while his counterpart Jordan Ruby pushed aside 20 Niagara shots before being replaced by Mike Rotolo in the third period. Rotolo finished with seven saves.
“Ignagni had some very timely saves for us tonight. He made the big stops and we scored on our opportunities which was the difference in the game,” head coach Dave Burkholder said. “(These have) been two really good team wins. The coaching staff continues to say on a daily basis that we have enough to win Atlantic Hockey and this team needed to go through a weekend like this to believe that as well. If we continue to play like we did this weekend, it will be a fun month and a half.”
The Tigers (8-13-3, 7-9-1) earned the game’s first power play just 33 seconds after the opening faceoff, which is when Ignagni began to frustrate RIT, making three early stops to backstop the penalty killing unit. The kill tilted momentum towards Niagara as the squad began to pepper Ruby with shots and eventually pulled ahead by two before five minutes ticked off the game clock.
For the second consecutive night Kohls opened the scoring, corralling a rebound off a Vince Muto shot and beating Ruby clean low, glove side at 3:45 for his career-high ninth goal of the season. Less than a minute later Conte fired a laser from the right circle that flew past Ruby far post to give the Purple and White an early 2-0 lead. Kevin Ryan and Sam Alfieri were credited with the assists.
RIT was finally able to get through the solid goaltending of Ignagni at 2:07 of the second frame while on the power play. Just seconds after Niagara killed off a 5-on-3 opportunity, Dan Schuler hammered home a shot from the top of the slot for his ninth of the season.
Kohls’ second goal of the evening came at 6:07 as the junior picked up a feed from Matt Williams and raced up the board before releasing a high-rising slap shot over Ruby’s shoulder.
The Tigers continued to press despite being down by a pair, but couldn’t solve Ignagni. The freshman was on point during the Tigers’ power play opportunity midway through the stanza, making a highlight sliding stop with his toe on Ben Lynch who had a wide open net to shoot at.
Conte and Sarcona dug RIT into a deeper hole before the end of the second with a goal each to make it a 5-1 game heading into the final period of regulation. Conte’s second of the evening came with four minutes remaining as Phil Nasca found his teammate in the slot for the one-timer. Sarcona wrapped up the period with his second breakaway goal in two nights. The freshman forced an RIT turnover and raced in on Ruby before tucking in a low shot, stick side.
The shot count went in favor of RIT, 41-32. Niagara went 0 for 4 on the man advantage, while killing off 7 of 8 RIT power play opportunities.
Niagara will hit the road next weekend when it travels to Milford, Conn. to take on the Sacred Heart Pioneers on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 in Atlantic Hockey play. Both contests are schedule for 7:05 p.m. starts.
Buff State 4, No. 11 Oswego 0
Kyle Whipple (Tonawanda/Kenmore West) scored on a breakaway early in the second period as the Bengals (9-8-3, 6-3-2 SUNYAC) beat the Lakers (12-4-2, 5-3-1) for the first time in 43 meetings.
Marist 61, Niagara 52
Strong defense gave the Purple Eagles the lead in the first and the junior duo of Val McQuade and Meghan McGuinness kept them in the game in the second on Saturday night.
Momentum swung back and forth throughout the opening half. Marist (15-5, 9-1 MAAC) had it to start but the pendulum quickly swung to Niagara (6-13, 4-6 MAAC) thanks to a staunch defensive showing. Over a nine-minute stretch starting at the 17:19 mark, NU held Marist to 0 for 11 from the floor and forced five turnovers. That opened the door to a 17-2 run that featured five points from Gabby Baldasare and had NU up 19-10 with eight minutes to go.
“I thought we did a great job defensively which is something we really struggled with against Marist because they are so talented offensive,” head coach Kendra Faustin said. “They made big shots down the stretch and that was the difference.”
Despite being held to a 29.2 percent (7 for 24) from the field and being out rebounded 23-18, the Red Foxes responded with a run of their own to take a slim 23-22 lead into the break.
The second half opened up compared to the first with both team shooting over 40 percent. McQuade scored the first of her 10 second-half points three minutes in to tie the game at 27. She hit a 3-pointer with just under nine minutes remaining to cut the deficit to one before hitting a jumper to give NU a 43-42 lead with seven minutes to go.
McGuinness, who also added 10 points in the second half, tied the game twice in the final five minutes. Down the stretch Marist took advantage of multiple trips to the free throw line to pull ahead.
McGuinness’ 15 points were a team-high and Baldasare led the way with eight rebounds. Niagara won the rebounding battle 39-31, including 17 offensive boards to Marist’s six.
“I think we did a great job moving,” Faustin said. “A lot of times as a shot goes up and we’re moving in route, the other team is out of position defensively. That allowed us to get our hands on some offensive rebounds.
“Obviously Marist is an incredibly respected team in the conference and I thought we played pretty well tonight but, you know we didn’t win and so I think it means that we’re getting better.”
Niagara has a quick turn-around with a 7 p.m. Wednesday matchup with Battle of the Bridge rival Canisius in the Gallagher Center.