If, and when, they close the books on the CHA, somebody please write a brief soliloquy of this unlikely rivalry between Niagara University and Bemidji State. Itâ€™s too good a college hockey yarn when these schools from remote locales face off against each other.
On the first bitterly cold night of the winter season, Niagara knocked off Bemidji, 3-1, while senior Ted Cook wrote himself into the Purple Eagle record books, becoming Niagaraâ€™s all-time leading goal scorer in typical Ted Cook fashion.
Cook muscled his way past two Bemidji defenders along the boards and did what comes naturally to goal scorers: he threw the puck towards the Beavers net. Thereâ€™s no real physics to explain the trajectory of that historic shot, as it bounced off the legs of a Bemidji defender and found a crevice between goalie Matt Daltonâ€™s pads.
â€œIâ€™ve scored maybe ten to 15 goals like that,â€ Cook said. â€œFrom that close to the net, from that sharp of an angle, we saw he (Dalton) was fighting it a bit tonight and kicking at it. He was giving me five hole most of the night. I just threw it on.â€
Niagara took a chance on Cook coming out of the USHL when so many other programs passed. All Cook has done since coming to Monteagle Ridge is fill the basket up with goals –72 and counting — and develop a sniperâ€™s presence on the power play for the Purple Eagle
â€œItâ€™s been a tough five weeks for him (Cook),â€ Niagara head coach Dave Burkholder said. â€œ For him to be that close and then get hurtâ€¦. There was so much riding on his senior year. He probably got off to rough start tonight taking care of the puck. But thatâ€™s a goal scorerâ€™s goal. There arenâ€™t many guys who are going to score from that angle.â€
Niagaraâ€™s second goal of the contest was scored by Cookâ€™s heir apparent, freshman Brian Dowd who lifted the puck from the blue line on the power play and pushed his scoring total to four on the young season. Dowd has been a revelation for the Purple Eagles. His toughness earned him the second center position, and he has displayed a knack for getting those quirky chances, like Cook, that turn into game changing goals.
Bemidji head coach Tom Serratore was not displeased with the effort given by his team.
â€œI thought we played very well tonight,â€ Serratore said. â€œ I even thought we moved it well on the power play. I canâ€™t ask anymore from our guys. They scored first and then converted at the end. That was it.â€
Bemidji outshot Niagara 36-19 nearly double in margin. Once again, Niagara goaltender Juliano Pagliero posted a masterful performance. Complicating Paglieroâ€™s acrobatic effort in net was the spotty play of the Purple Eagle defense. For most of the game it was difficult to determine if Niagaraâ€™s defense was that bad in making the first pass out of their zone, or whether the Purple Eagle forwards were too far ahead of the play, hanging the defense out to dry.
Bemidji scored its lone goal of the contest twenty-nine seconds into the third period. Tyler Scofield beat Pagliero close-in, after Matt Read wheeled behind Niagaraâ€™s net and found his roaming teammate near the Purple Eagle crease.
Niagara put the game out of reach later in the third after David Rossâ€™ nifty stick handling set up Paul Zanette for the 3-1 lead.
â€œDwyer pride,â€ was how Burkholder summed up Niagaraâ€™s the win. â€œFor whatever reason, we get it done here. Itâ€™s a special place to play.â€