The Niagara Purple Eagles turned in one of their strongest performances of the season, winning the second half of the Battle of the Bridge against rival Canisius, 5-3.
The game marks Niagara’s first win of the season. The Purple Eagles (1-8-1, 1-4-1 Atlantic Hockey) arguably outplayed Canisius (2-7-0, 1-3-0 AHA) Friday night, but dropped a 4-1 decision. NU coach Jason Lammers has liked the way his team has played in recent games, and thought they put in the effort to win this weekend.
“We talked about opportunity all week, and I think we took the opportunity tonight,” he said. “I really liked our game in spurts. I thought our third period was excellent.”
Forward Luke Edgerton opened the scoring at the 7:19 mark of the first period to give Niagara a 1-0 lead, with forward Brandon Stanley and defenseman Jared Brandt drawing assists. Canisius’s Simon Gravel struck back with a power-play goal at the 11:12 mark to tie it up at one. The Purple Eagles came back with a nice power-play goal of their own, with forward Eric Cooley putting home an across-the-crease pass from forward Jack Billings. Forward Ryan Naumovski had the second assist on the goal.
Niagara took a 2-1 lead into the second period, and made it 3-1 on a goal by Stanley, which Naumovski and Edgerton assisted. Two power-play goals from Canisius’s Nick Hutchison tied the game at three.
Billings came back with a power-play goal from defenseman Noah Delmas and Naumovski at the 11:52 mark of the second, and Niagara never looked back.
On the night, Niagara went 2-for-3 on the power play, while Canisius went 3-for-3.
Justin Kendall iced the game with an empty-net goal with eight seconds left in the third, with Naumovski drawing his fifth assist of the game.
Despite being outshot on the night, 37-30, the Purple Eagles controlled play in the third, and were able to stifle Canisius’ attack. That stemmed from a “little adjustment on the bench,” Lammers said.
“We wanted to keep people above the puck,” he said. “Not only without the puck, but with the puck, we were able to make choices that were the team play, putting the puck in behind them and making them come 200 feet. It’s hard when you have to come 200 feet.”
Niagara also limited odd-man rushes in the third.
“There wasn’t a whole lot for them,” Lammers said.
Goaltender Brian Wilson, making his first start in four games, made 34 saves on the night, earning his first victory of the season.
“I thought he was timely,” Lammers said. “I thought he was quiet and controlled the pace of the game. I was excited to see him get a ‘W’ because he’s put a lot of time and effort in. He’s in better shape than he’s ever been in.”
The game marked the last time the two teams will play each other this season. Both games this weekend were hard fought, physical affairs.
“I like it,” Lammers said. “I’m hopeful that we can do more of this. That’s the way I envision our club playing, and we need to do it more than we’ve done it so far this year.”
Niagara takes on Mercyhurst in a home-and-home series next weekend.