LEWISTON — After 40 minutes Friday evening, it appeared as if one of the longest home unbeaten streaks in NCAA Division I history was in jeopardy. Visiting Sacred Heart held a 2-1 lead and had thoroughly outplayed the 20th-ranked Niagara Purple Eagles for the first two periods.

But as junior Les Reaney put it, coach Dave Burkholder gave one of his “pep talks” during the second intermission and as any good team would do, Niagara responded.

The Purple Eagles scored three third-period goals, highlighted by Reaney’s game-winner, to pick up a 4-2 non-conference victory over Sacred Heart in front of 756 fans at Dwyer Arena. NU (7-3-0 overall) has now gone 21 consecutive home games without suffering a loss — the longest such streak since 1984.

“Van Gogh it was not,” Burkholder joked. “It’s a 60-minute game and thankfully they came out and earned it in the third period.”

With the game knotted at 2 after defenseman Scott Langdon banged home a rebound — his first goal on the year — less than four minutes into the third period, it was time for Reaney to shine.

The centerman took the puck at the point and blasted a slapper past Sacred Heart goaltender Scott Marchesi with just 1:51 remaining. It was Reaney’s second goal of the year, but also his second in as many games. This after scoring 16 and earning all-conference honors a season ago.

“Hopefully the monkey’s off my back,” Reaney said.

Burkholder said he was happy to see Reaney light the lamp.

“When he’s up there hitting and moving his feet, he’s a very good player,” the coach said. “He’s been a little snake-biten (this year). That was a missile and I was so happy it was the game-winner — for him.”

Sacred Heart (3-4-1) struck first with a pretty power-play goal from Erik Boisvert, but NU’s Chris Moran answered less than two minutes later when he buried a shot from the point as the Purple Eagles had a two-man advantage.

The second period, though, would see the Pioneers dominate play as they used their hard-hitting checking game to muster up 19 shots and ultimately a second goal off the stick of Adam Dejong.

But Reaney and Co. were not about to let an inferior opponent steal one on home ice.

“We don’t want to lose it because the seniors will not have that chance again,” he said in reference to the unbeaten streak. “Good teams find a way to win.”

Kyle Rogers added an empty-net goal and Juliano Pagliero made 29 saves in goal for Niagara.

The same two teams meet again at 7 p.m. today.

Contact reporter Nate Beutel at 282-2311, ext. 2262.

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