March 14, 2004
CHA Championship
Tallari Goal Gives Niagara CHA Title

Niagara 4, Bemidji State 3 OT
Team Goal Str
Time Assists

First Period

No Scoring
Second Period
1-NIA Chris Welch (13) EV
4:04 A. Clarke, D. Hominuk
2-NIA Ryan Gale (9) PP
11:06 H. Karru, P. Oliveto
1-BSU Andrew Murray (6) EV
17:07 R. Sirianni, J. Haider
Third Period
2-BSU Jean-Guy Gervais (7) EV
14:46 R. Miller, R. Sirianni
3-NIA Aaron Clarke (8) EV
17:54 S. Bentivoglio, A. Lackner
3-BSU John Haider (11) EV
18:08 W. Chiodo, R. Riddell
4-NIA Joe Tallari (15) EV
13:27 B. Ehgoetz
NIA: Jeff VanNynatten, 73:27, 31 saves, 3 GA
BSU: Grady Hunt, 73:27, 33 saves, 4 GA
Penalties: NIA 4/8; BSU 5/21
Power Plays: NIA 1-5; BSU 0-4
Attendance: 1,335

It took a bit longer than expected for the first NCAA Tournament bid of the season to be decided, but thanks to Joe Tallari's goal 13:27 into overtime, Niagara claimed it with a 4-3 victory over Bemidji State in the CHA Tournament championship game.

The title is Niagara's second in the five-year history of the conference. While the Purple Eagles earned their first automatic bid to the NCAAs, they will be making their second appearance; in 2000, Niagara earned an at-large bid.

Tallari's overtime goal came from the slot after a centering pass from Barret Ehgoetz from behind the net. Tallari chipped it into the air and it fluttered over Bemidji State goaltender Grady Hunt and in the goal.

Overtime followed a dramatic finish to regulation that saw three goals scored in the last 5:14, including two within a 14-second span. Bemidji State, the regular-season champion, erased a pair of one-goal deficits in the third period.

The Beavers were unable to dent Purple Eagle goaltender Jeff VanNynatten for the first 47:07 of play. Four years ago, spectacular goaltending from Greg Gardner led an upstart Niagara team to a remarkable upset of New Hampshire in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Now, with VanNynatten, this Purple Eagles team seems to have a similar strength between the pipes.

Andrew Murray scored Bemidji's first goal, cutting into a Niagara leaad that was built on rebound goals by Chris Welch and Ryan Gale earlier in the second.

INCH's Three Stars of the Night

3. Jean-Guy Gervais, Bemidji State
Had a terrific all-around game, highlighted by the deft stickwork as he batted a rebound out of midair for a goal.

2. Joe Tallari, Niagara
The Purple Eagles' big gun a year ago, he was quieter this year – but scored the team's biggest goal of the season.

1. Jeff VanNynatten, Niagara
Grady Hunt actually finished with more saves, but VanNynatten faced the tougher opportunities throughout the night.

Jean-Guy Gervais tied the score with just over five minutes remaining in regulation, swatting a Ryan Miller rebound past VanNynatten.

Three minutes later, just two seconds after a Bemidji State bench minor had expired, Niagara regained the lead. With the Beavers outnumbered down low, Sean Bentovoglio kicked the puck to Aaron Clarke in front, who beat Grady Hunt for a 3-2 lead.

Fourteen seconds later, off a faceoff in the Niagara zone, Bemidji State struck back. The Beavers battled for the faceoff and got the puck back to John Haider at the point. Haider, who had a hat trick in the semifinal win over Findlay, fired a slapshot past VanNynatten to tie the score.

That set the stage for overtime, and what became the longest game in CHA Tournament history. The Purple Eagles, who improve to 21-14-3 overall, held an 8-6 shot advantage in the extra session.

Niagara awaits the NCAA Selection Show, next Sunday at 2:30 p.m., to find out the site and opponent for their return trip to the NCAA Tournament.

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