WORCESTER, Mass. – The No. 15 Niagara hockey team were handed its first loss in conference play as the Purple Eagles fell to Holy Cross, 5-3, Friday evening at Hart Center.
Twice Niagara (13-3-4; 12-1-1 AHA) battled back from a pair of goals down while playing with a short bench to make it a one goal game, but the Crusaders (12-7-2; 8-4-2 AHA) responded each time with a tally of their own to snap the Purple Eagles three-game win streak.
“We did a lot of good thing tonight. I thought we carried the play for most of the night,” head coach Dave Burkholder said. “We certainly had more great opportunities than they did, but when you add it all up they got to the scoreboard more than we did. When you’re on the road playing a quality team like Holy Cross you can’t give them three gifts, which we did. We need to dust ourselves off and play like champions tomorrow.”
Holy Cross took the lead 9:20 into the third period when Ben Kaplan skated the puck into the offensive zone along the boards and wristed the puck past NU netminder Carsen Chubak top shelf to give the Crusaders a 1-0 advantage. Jake Bolton made it 2-0 less than two minutes later at 9:01 while on the power play with Shayne Stockton picking up the assist. Bolton fired a slapper from the top of left circle that clanged off the bottom of the crossbar before dropping behind the line.
The teams headed into the first break with NU outshooting Holy Cross by a slim 10-7 margin.
Kevin Albers cut the lead in half at the 5:46 into the second stanza on a dump in at the blue line that caught Holy Cross goalie Matt Ginn on his heels and trickled behind him. The defenseman’s first career-goal was assisted by Dan Weiss and Chubak.
Matt Chartrain nearly brought the score back even a few minutes later when the rookie stoke the puck from a Holy Cross defender at center ice and raced in on Ginn for the breakaway, but his shot went wide, glove-side.
Jake Youso regained the two-goal lead for the hosts at the 7:23 mark of the middle frame. Youso streaked down the right boards and whistled a wrister into the back of the net for his seventh of the year.
Niagara responded a minute later, as Ryan Murphy notched his ninth goal of the season at 6:24. Marc Zanette had the initial look on goal, but Ginn left Murphy a rebound attempt that the left winger tapped
For the third time the Purple Eagles would have to battle back from a two-goal deficit as a Brandon Nunn shot snuck under the pads of Chubak to give Holy Cross the 4-2 lead heading into the final period of play.
Nunn added his second score of the night with 16:07 remaining in the game to make it 5-3. In the final four minutes of play, Patrick Divjak netted his third goal of the season on a slap shot from the top of the slot, but it was not enough to trigger the comeback.
The Purps outshot the Crusaders 41-29. Chubak made 11 saves in 38 minutes of play, while Cody Campbell wrapped up goaltending duties for Niagara pushing aside 13 Holy Cross attempts on net.
This is the first time in 22 AHA contests, where the Purps have not secured at least one point against a conference opponent, dating back to Feb. 11, 2012.
Niagara returns to Hart Center tomorrow evening to wrap up the series against Holy Cross. The puck is set to drop at 7:05 p.m.