Before the season started, expectations were high for the Niagara hockey team.
They should have been, with the Purple Eagles returning talented upperclassmen and productive youngsters with potential industriousness.
This weekend, Niagara resembled a powerful Atlantic Hockey club, the latest example coming in Saturday night’s dominant 5-0 pounding of Connecticut. The Purple Eagles scored eight goals over the weekend — but more impressively — did not allow one in the sweep.
Niagara is now 3-0-0 in conference play and 4-2-3 overall.
The 1,252 patrons in Dwyer Arena saw Giancarlo Iuorio continue his mercurial play with two more goals and still another solid goaltending performance from the cool and calm Carsen Chubak. The junior goaltender stopped 26 shots for his second shutout in the past 24 hours.
“Obviously, we have to start with Carsen Chubak on that,” Niagara coach Dave Burkholder said in reference to his club’s weekend. “He didn’t make a mistake all weekend, and I thought our “D” zone coverage was……five on five, we didn’t give up many Grade A’s (scoring opportunities), especially tonight.
“Our guys are paying the price, and doing what it takes first and foremost defensively. We are going to score our share of goals, and we showed that tonight.”
Chubak’s emergence to his present prominence has been a tough one with a serious injury and surgeries. But he has arrived.
“He was the best goalie since the first day of training camp,” Burkholder said. “Again, he was really efficient, and made the saves at the right time when it was still a close game. I am glad there is a NHL lockout. Someone might pick him up. He has been that hot.”
Iuorio, playing on a line with Ryan Murphy and Marc Zanette, had three goals on Friday night, five for the weekend and now eight this season.
“It all starts with the line all clicking, “Iuorio said. “We are all reading off of each other really well, and I am finding little areas. It is all three of us together. If all three of us are not clicking, than I am not on this hot streak.”
Murphy had a goal and two assists while Isaac Kohls and Matt Chartrain also scored. Defenseman Dan Weiss had two assists.
It is still early in the season. Or maybe not, depending on how one looks at it. But the Purple Eagles are indeed a quarter of the way through their schedule already.
“We have really matured in this part of the season,” Burkholder said. “What we persevered through at Michigan State, and protecting leads. We have been through a lot, even though it is early in the year. But first and foremost, we are undefeated in the league, and that is everything. Every point is huge. Hopefully we can keep rolling.”
Nine games are now history. At this stage at least, the Purple Eagles appear to be a quality team.
“Our team is just confident right now,” Iuorio said. “Everybody believes in each other in the room, and it is showing on the ice.”