By Thomas Baldwin
Niagara Gazette — Even though it might have looked like it outside due to the weather, the world did not end at the Niagara University campus on Friday.
Sure, the Purple Eagles hardly distinguished themselves in their 2-0 loss at Canisius on Thursday night. And granted, of all the teams they did not want to play poorly against, sure enough, they did against the hated Golden Griffins.
“It is just disappointing, that if you are going to lay an egg, it can’t be against Canisius, just because of the university and the people around here,” said Niagara coach Dave Burkholder. But he added, “To be 16-2-2 after 20 (conference) games, I don’t know how we can be disappointed. We’ll regroup and be ready for tomorrow.”
Niagara is indeed 16-2-2 in Atlantic Hockey play and 17-5-5 overall, good for the 15th ranking in the USCHO.com poll. Canisius is now 10-8-2 in Atlantic Hockey and 11-13-5 overall.
Now it is time to move on, and the Purple Eagles did that with a practice on Friday in preparation for tonight’s rematch at 7:05 p.m. in Dwyer Arena.
After the dust settled on Friday, Burkholder was analytical regarding Thursday’s defeat.
“It was just one of those nights where our top guys didn’t have their legs,” he said. “I would think we are going to play a lot harder, and be a little more sharp on Saturday.”
Despite not looking overly pristine, the Purple Eagles still could have won the game if not for an inept power play. They were blanked in seven attempts on Thursday night (10 shots) and worked on the power play during Friday’s workout.
“It is definitely going to a be an area of focus today at practice,” Burkholder said before Friday’s skate. “I think the power play is a lot of five guys outworking their four, winning loose pucks, winning faceoffs. We didn’t win any faceoffs on the power play. We had to go back 200 feet on a lost draw after they cleared.
“It’s just the little things, nothing we have to draw up or anything, just a little more intensity, and we should be fine.”
Niagara’s power play is currently converting at a 16 percent clip.
Burkholder is glad tonight’s rematch is at Dwyer, where the Purple Eagles have not lost in 17 games, five short of the program record. Niagara went 22 games without a loss from Feb. 11, 2006 to Nov. 11, 2007.
“It is a new day today, the great news is, we are coming out to a sold out Dwyer Arena, and we have our home streak on the line, and we are playing for a regular season championship,” Burkholder said. “It doesn’t get any more exciting than that.”
Niagara still holds a 12-point lead over the Griffs in the Atlantic standings. More importantly, the first place Purple Eagles still have a nine-point edge over second place Mercyhurst, although the Lakers have a game in hand. Mercyhurst hosted Air Force on Friday night and again tonight.