Niagara halts Bobcats unbeaten run

Brian Stevenson

Not even the nation’s longest unbeaten streak could end the dominance the Niagara University hockey team has over the Quinnipiac Bobcats.

The Purple Eagles swept a weekend series from the Bobcats for the second year in a row, this time at the TD Banknorth SportsCenter.

Niagara followed a convincing 5-1 win on Friday night with another five goal effort Saturday night, defeating the No. 12 ranked Bobcats, who were unbeaten in their last 10 games, 5-3 to run their overall record against the Bobcats to an astounding 9-1.

“Niagara played well. They do well against the ECAC I think because they feel like they have something to prove,” Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold said. “We don’t match up well and they were fired up.”

The Purple Eagles came out strong Friday night, but Bobcat netminder Bud Fisher was up to the task early on, stopping two breakaways in the first few minutes.

Nine minutes into the period, Dan Sullivan was able to solve Fisher to give Niagara a 1-0 lead.

The Bobcats tied the game on a power play goal by Bryan Leitch, his 99th career point. Linemates Ben Nelson and Jamie Bates assisted on the tying goal.

With a minute and a half to go in the first period, a botched clearance attempt by the Bobcat defense led to the first goal of the season by Ryan Olidis and a 2-1 lead for Niagara at the break.

The lapse was just one example of a horrible defensive weekend for the Bobcats according to Pecknold.

“This (Friday) was the most uncoachable outing of the year. I was frustrated and embarrassed,” he said. “We looked like six-year olds playing soccer. We just kept following the puck.”

Niagara extended their lead to 3-1 with 8:35 to go in the second perios on Matt Caruana’s 12th goal of the year.

Ryan Annesley scored with just under three minutes to go in the second period to give the Purple Eagles a three goal lead entering the third.

Freshman Pat McGann replaced Fisher in net late in third and was beaten for the fifth and final goal of the game with 1:55 to go.

Pecknold recognized his team’s struggles, but credited Niagara with some of his team’s difficulties.

“We struggled and couldn’t get it going,” he said. “(Juliano) Pagliero was excellent in net tonight.”

Pagliero stopped 30 shots on the night, allowing just the first period goal to Leitch.

Saturday night was much of the same for the Bobcats.

Niagara scored a power play goal just over two minutes into the first period to gain an early lead.

The Bobcats stole back momentum on a pair of shorthanded goal during a Purple Eagle power play midway through the stanza.

Jean-Marc Beaudoin made a spectacular move to beat a Niagara defenseman and Pagliero to tie the game at one. Brandon Wong and Josh Duncan assisted on the goal.

A minute later, Dan LeFort tallied his first goal of the year. Eric Lampe worked the puck behind the net against two defenseman and LeFort was able to lift a loose puck past Pagliero for a 2-1 Bobcat advantage.

Just 1:50 into the second period, Tyler Gotto slapped a shot past Fisher to tie the game 2-2.

A well executed power play goal midway through the period gave Niagara the lead back. Ted Cook played a pass to Annesley at the point, who made a hard pass to an open Caruana next to the Bobcat net. Caruana buried the puck past Fisher for a 3-2 lead.

“It was a poor defensive effort,” Pecknold said of his team’s performance. “Forwards didn’t backcheck. It was the worst two games all year as a D-core. We had really bad turnovers.”

Isak Tranvik’s second goal of the year tied the game at three apiece two minutes after Caruana’s goal, but Kyle Rogers beat Fisher on another defensive breakdown by the Bobcats with three and a half to go in the second to give the Purple Eagles the lead for good.

Chris Moran gave Niagara an insurance goal when he put a rebound past Fisher for a 5-3 lead. Fisher was pulled for the second straight night and McGann finished the game in net for the Bobcats.

“It was a subpar weekend for Bud. He’ll rebound and be fine,” Pecknold said.

The Bobcats return to ECAC play next weekend on the road at RPI and Union.