SHU Completes Weekend Sweep Over Niagara

Goal Celebration (Photo Credit: Mallory Robalino)
Goal Celebration (Photo Credit: Mallory Robalino)

NIAGARA UNIVERSITY, N.Y.— The Sacred Heart University men's ice hockey team tallied three power-play goals to down Niagara University 5-3 on Saturday to earn the weekend sweep. The Pioneers (9-16-4, 7-12-4 AHA) are now winners of four straight games on the road with the victory over the Purple Eagles (11-18-3, 10-13-3 AHA) at Dwyer Arena.

SHU earned its first weekend series sweep in nearly two seasons with its last coming on February 19-20, 2016 at Canisius. Freshman Marc Johnstone led the Pioneers with two power-play goals on the night. Classmate Alex Bates opened the scoring for SHU while junior Jackson Barliant added his third goal of the weekend. Sophomore Ruslan Rakhmatov capped the scoring in the third with his third goal of the season. 

Sophomore Vito Bavaro and freshman Matt Tugnutt were the Pioneers main distributors with two assists each. 10 Pioneers made their mark on the scoresheet in the win. Junior Brett Magnus was a stalwart in goal for the Pioneers, turning away 33 shots for his ninth win of the year.

Turning Point…

After SHU struck first on Friday night it was the Purple Eagles that lit the lamp first on the shorthanded goal by Johnny Curran. Bates responded for the Pioneers with his fourth goal of the season. The crafty goal from behind the goal line by Johnstone pushed SHU ahead 2-1 at 13:56 in the first. 

Barliant extended the Pioneers lead to two with his third goal of the weekend at 2:08 in the second. Niagara answered just 11 seconds later with Sam Renneker's wrist shot to cut the SHU lead back to one. Johnstone chipped in his second power-play goal at 7:54 in the second period to put the Pioneers ahead 4-2.

The pace of play began to shift for the home team as the Purple Eagles looked to fend off the Pioneers four-point weekend. Rakhmatov recorded the power play goal late in the third before Niagara recorded the power play extra-attacker goal for one last jolt. Magnus slammed the door shut with several key saves down the stretch to preserve the win. 

How They Scored…

5:21 – 1st Period: Niagara 1, SHU 0: The Pioneers miscommunication led to a turnover in the neutral zone. Curran picked up the puck for the Purple Eagles with open ice ahead of him. He rushed in on the breakaway beating Magnus with the backhanded goal after getting slashed in the process.


8:45 – 1st Period: SHU 1, Niagara 1: With back-to-back penalties called by both teams, four-on-four play was the call just under the halfway mark. SHU was aggressive in the Purple Eagles zone with plenty of traffic in front of the net for O'Brien. Bates buried home the rebound shot after the scramble shot by Tugnutt.

13:56 – 1st Period: SHU 2, Niagara 1: SHU circled the puck on the power play as Clare set things up from the top of the point. The co-captain sent the puck to the charging Johnstone in the slot. His initial shot was stopped on the toe-save by O'Brien. The rookie collected the rebound from behind the goal and sent the puck back towards the slot with the puck banking off of O'Brien and the left post for the crazy goal.

2:08 - 2nd Period: SHU 3, Niagara 1: The Pioneers netted their third straight goal early in the second period off of excellent passing through the Niagara zone. Barliant buried the tick-tack-toe play off the assists by Lloyd and Jordan Kaplan.

2:19 – 2nd Period: SHU 3, Niagara 2: The Purple Eagles needed just 13 seconds to respond to the early SHU goal. Ryan Kuhn won the faceoff draw as Renneaker entered the Pioneers zone. He whistled past a pair of defenders and fired a wrist shot that beat Magnus blocker side for the second goal of the night. 

7:54 – 2nd Period: SHU 4, Niagara 2: SHU took advantage of the double penalty by the Purple Eagles with the five-on-three power play. The Pioneers top power-play unit moved the puck around the Niagara zone. Bavaro got the puck at the left circle from the feed by Zach Tsekos with plenty of space to operate. He found Johnstone at the doorstep for the rookie's second power-play goal of the game.

14:23 – 3rd Period: SHU 5, Niagara 2: The Pioneers continued on the power play late in the third period as Tugnutt made the play on the puck along the Purple Eagles blue line. He shipped the pass over to Rakhmatov wide open in the middle of the slot. The defenseman found a seem and roofed the wrist shot top shelf for SHU's third power-play goal.

18:05 – 3rd Period: SHU 5, Niagara 3: With the five-on-three advantage, Niagara orchestrated the offense along the perimeter as Noah Delmas worked from the top of the slot. He fed the puck to Justin Kendall at the left circle. He found Cooley wide open at the doorstep to cut the deficit to two. 

Key Stats & Notes…

  • SHU tied a season-high with three power play goals, going 3-for-7 on the man advantage.
  • Bavaro is the first Pioneer with double-digit goals and assists (14-11) with his two helpers tonight.
  • Tugnutt became the third SHU skater to reach the 20-point mark on his first assist of the game.
  • Johnstone registered his team-leading, sixth multi-point game of the season and the second two-goal performance of his career.

Up Next…

The Pioneers will travel up the road to Quinnipiac on Tuesday, February 13 for the make-up game against Air Force that was postponed due to the government shutdown back on January 20. The puck drop for the matinee between the Pioneers and Falcons is set for 12:05 p.m. from Frank Perrotti, Jr. Arena.