November 30, 2005
Niagara Close Again, But...

By Thomas Baldwin

 College Hockey America Notebook
Niagara goaltender Scott Mollison played well in his first start of the season, making 29 saves in a 5-3 loss to Cornell Saturday.

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Though Niagara again demonstrated again it can hang with college hockey's upper echelon, the Purple Eagles fell short in a pair of games against Cornell, the 17th-rated team in this week's INCH Power Rankings, last weekend.

Niagara showed resiliency both nights, erasing two-goal deficits to pull even with the Big Red before eventually losing. On Friday, Niagara trailed 3-1 in the second period before tying the score on goals by Jason Williamson and Ted Cook evened the score. In Saturday's rematch in Rochester, the Big Red led 3-1 midway through the final period. Niagara got power-play goals from Vince Rocco and Justin Cross to pull even.

“Two nights in a row we are tied 3-3 in the third period with a very respected program on the other bench,” Niagara coach Dave Burkholder said.

Niagara's goaltending situation bears watching, especially heading into this weekend's crucial league series at Bemidji State. Scott Mollison became the third goalkeeper utilized by Burkholder this season when he got the start in Saturday’s game and recorded 29 saves in a steady effort.

“(Scott) played some big games for us last year, and he deserved to start,” Burkholder said. “We weren’t happy Friday night. As a staff, we decided to make the change, and Mollison was next in.

That said, maintains Burkholder, "Jeff’s our number one goalie. He’s going to be the guy."


Wounded Eagle: In addition to losing twice to Cornell, junior forward Sean Bentivoglio suffered a bruised sternum in Friday’s game at Lynah Rink and is out indefinitely. He is currently tied for fifth among Niagara skaters in points with 6-7—13 in 12 games.

“We will know more when we get back from Bemidji,” Burkholder said. “Losing Benty is very difficult. He’s been a factor offensively in every game he’s played for us this year and he’s an upperclassmen with great leadership. I don’t know if we will replace him, but we need to persevere without him.”

“He’s a key player, and he puts up good numbers,” said Williamson, the Purple Eagles' leading scorer with 17 points in 13 games. “I think we have the depth to fill his spot. We are going to miss him...but hopefully guys fill the hole, and we won’t miss him too much.”

Winless Warriors: Wayne State is still in search of its first victory, returning to Detroit with a tie and loss in a non-conference series at Union last weekend. This silver lining for the Warriors (0-8-2) was a clutch goal from Mike Forgie with just under eight minutes remaining in the third period of Friday's 2-2 draw.

“I thought Friday night we played relatively well," Wayne State coach Bill Wilkinson said. "It was back and forth."

Forgie’s goal was set up by Stavros Paskaris, the team's leading scorer from a year ago who returned to the lineup last weekend after missing a month with a knee injury.

“He did okay,” Wilkinson said of the sophomore forward. “Stavros is a kid who has lots of hockey sense and he certainly helps us offensively.”

Though Wilkinson's team can glean some positives from the Union series, the pressure on the Warriors to get their first victory – they try again this weekend at Air Force – continues to build.

“It’s starting to be a monkey on our backs,” Wilkinson said. “I think we’ve played relatively well enough to win, but maybe not well enough to win... if you get the drift of what I am saying. But we will go out and treat the Friday night game like any other game, that it is importantly for us to perform to our capabilities.”


Great Weekend Getaway
120x60 - Brand Red

Niagara at Bemidji State (Fri.-Sat.)
The Purple Eagles are away from home for the fifth and sixth times in their last seven games. The Beavers, meanwhile, skate in front of the home crowd for the first time since Oct. 15.

“It always seems…when we play, they are huge games,” said Niagara forward Jason Williamson. “Even though we have played some big games this year, this is definitely our biggest weekend. Playing games against Cornell and Vermont prepared us for this.”

Stick Salute

For the sixth consecutive year, the Air Force hockey team lends a hand to needy children in the Colorado Springs area with its "Toy Trick" effort. At this weekend's games with Wayne State, fans can bring a new stuffed toy, wrapped in plastic. When the Falcons score their first goal in each game, fans can throw the stuffed toy on the ice.

Bench Minor

With Cornell and Niagara tied late in the third period of Saturday's game, referee Peter Kirk whistled the Purple Eagles' Armando Scarlato for interference with 3:17 left in regulation. Ryan O'Byrne scored the eventual game winner for the Big Red less than 30 seconds later, much to the chagrin of Niagara coach Dave Burkholder.

“I certainly don’t like losing on the penalty kill with three minutes left in a very, very good college hockey game,” he said. “But...we can’t control that.”

• A crowd of 2,324 turned out at Blue Cross Arena in Rochester to witness Saturday's Cornell-Niagara tilt. Niagara athletic director Mike Hermann said the Purple Eagles will play Colgate at the same neutral-site venue next season. Rochester, by the way, hosts 2007 NCAA Tournament East Regional

Robert Morris also used a non-conference series to juggle its goaltending alignment as Joe Tuset got a rare start for the Colonials at Lake Superior State Tuset, who hadn't made a start prior to his appearance in Sault Ste. Marie, made 32 saves in a 4-3 overtime loss

“Christian has done an excellent job for us, but we need also to evaluate Joe Tuset,” Schooley said. “We felt, being our last non-conference game for a while, to give Joe a look. Joe did a good job. He made some big saves. I’m sure there is a goal or two he would like to have back. But he did everything he could do to give us an opportunity.

“But by no means is there a goalie controversy here. Joe did a great job, and we have every confidence in Joe, but Christian is our horse.”

• It's hard to believe we're in the first week of December and Alabama-Huntsville had played just eight games. The Chargers, who were idle last weekend, meet a streaky Ohio State team in Columbus for a two-game, non-conference series.

The series with the Buckeyes marks the first of six straight non-league tilts for Alabama-Huntsville, which travels to Princeton next weekend and makes the Maverick circuit during the holidays with road contests at Nebraska-Omaha (Dec. 29) and Minnesota State, Mankato (Dec. 31). The CHA preseason favorites don't play a conference series until Jan. 6-7, when Air Force visits Von Braun Center.

• Air Force won a pair of exhibition games against German professional teams during a week-long European swing. The Falcons downed Bad Tolz, 7-2, and topped Rosenheim, 4-1.

A variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report.