The storm clouds of recent financial troubles parted over Monteagle Ridge tonight while a college hockey game broke out.
On the opposing side of Dwyer Arena stood St. Lawrence head coach Joe Marsh, 24 years a venerable icon of the game from the northern part of New York State. For the host Purple Eagles, Dave Burkholder commanded the bench, 13 years in the process of becoming an icon, himself, in the western part of the state.
So when the red and brown shirts of St. Lawrence lined up against the purple and white jerseys of Niagara, all seemed well again with the world.
In the end, St. Lawrence skated away to its first victory of the season, 5-1, utilizing opportune special teams play, and a hard-nosed defense that limited Niagara’s second chances.
“We didn’t want to leave Michigan 0-2 last weekend, especially tied 3-3 late in both games,” Marsh said. “But tonight we were really pleased with the effort our team gave. Niagara has always been a tough opponent for us. I told our guys we have to match their effort and outwork them. Petizian made some big saves early on, allowing us to get our feet under us, and from there we just worked hard.”
St. Lawrence tallied the lone goal of the first period, shorthanded. A Niagara defensive zone give-away enabled Aaron Bogosian to feed a streaking Travis Vermeulen, who ripped a wrist shot past Niagara goaltender Juliano Pagliero.
“I thought the game Shawn Fensel and Matt Generous played tonight was outstanding,” Marsh said. “Fensel has to be the most underrated player I’ve ever coached. He’s so solid you don’t notice him out there. And Alex Curran was a force tonight. He’s not a flashy player. He’s very strong and he gets things done.”
Shortly into the second period, the Saints extended their lead to 3-0 on a series of power play goals by Brock McBride and Brandon Bollig.
Burkholder promptly called a Niagara timeout, resulting in the departure of Pagliero from the Purple Eagle net in favor of sophomore Adam Avramenko.
“It’s a rare occasion that we lay such an egg,” Burkholder said. “We’re three games into the season and still searching for our identity. We haven’t figured out what type of team we will be. But I’m excited about tomorrow night (versus Clarkson) to see how we respond to this performance.”
Just when Niagara looked staggered and bloodied midway through the second period, Purple Eagle freshman Brian Dowd crashed the St. Lawrence defensive zone and fired a loose puck on Saints goalie Alex Petizian. Paul Zanette, Niagara’s most effective forward of the evening, notched his first goal when he cashed in a rebound to put the Purple Eagles on the board.
Niagara tried clawing its way back into contention as the period wore on. Ted Cook appeared to score Niagara’s second goal but referee Peter Feola waved it off, claiming Cook directed the puck in with his hand.
A series of big hits from Cook and Derek Foam inspired the Dwyer crowd but Casey Parenteau foiled any more thoughts of a Niagara comeback. The St. Lawrence winger beat Avramenko on assists from McBride and Mike McKenzie, pushing the Saints lead to 4-1.
Augie DiMarzo scored another St. Lawrence power play goal in the third when he camped out on Avramenko’s glove side. The diminutive Saints winger was left all alone for the tap in, and despite the 5-1 score, few Niagara partisans headed for the exits.
“I was a little more cautious entering the season,” Marsh remarked. “We took a flyer on some freshmen, and they’ve done a great job in practice, pushing everyone for playing time. I’m seeing a lot of competition and this will hopefully allow us to develop some depth. We talk and talk about it, but it’s really the kids who are developing this work culture on our team. I’m optimistic about the way we are progressing.”