Niagara Gazette —
LEWISTON — The Niagara hockey team has not clinched the Atlantic Hockey regular season title just yet.
But one does not need a degree in mathematics to realize the deal is pretty much done. The latest step came in Saturday evening’s 6-4 victory over resilient Bentley University in Dwyer Arena.
With RIT in the rearview mirror last weekend and rival Canisius looming in the next few days, Niagara coach Dave Burkholder said his club did a good job of not looking past Bentley.
“We have so much respect for Bentley and their offensive numbers, and what they can do to you, and they showed it tonight,” he said. “As I have said, this is our third year in Atlantic Hockey, and we haven’t done a thing in this league. For us to take anyone for granted would be wrong.”
Ryan Murphy and Marc Zanette led Niagara with two goals and an assist while Ryan Rashid and Sam Alfieri also scored. Patrick Divjak had three assists.
Murphy scored the eventual game winner midway through the second period to give the Purple Eagles a 5-3 lead.
Niagara led 3-1, 4-2 and 5-3 at junctures, but each time the Falcons cut the lead to one goal. Brett Switzer scored two goals for Bentley, which fell to 9-9-1 in conference play and 11-13-1 overall.
The Purple Eagles' conference championship outlook is promising if you look at the numbers.
The 17th-ranked Purple Eagles are 6-1-1 in their last eight games. They improved to 16-1-2 in conference play and will lead second-place Air Force by at least 10 points with only eight games left in the regular season. Niagara is 17-4-5 overall and has lost only two games since late October.
Now, the Purple Eagles turn attention to their hated rivals.
“Obviously, it’s a big rivalry, and has been since I have been here,” Murphy said. “We will do the same things during the week and gear up like it is anyone we are going to play against, and go out there and execute our gameplan.”