LEWISTON – Coach Dave Burkholder thought his Niagara University hockey team was in good shape, starting overtime on the power play Saturday afternoon.
Turns out the Purple Eagles needed some clutch goaltending by Carsen Chubak and their penalty killers to preserve a 2-2 tie with Bowling Green in the opening game of the NCAA Division I men’s hockey season before 1,066 at Dwyer Arena.
Niagara tied the game with 50 seconds left in regulation on a goal by Chris Lochner. A cross-checking penalty was called against the Falcons’ Marcus Perrier at the same time the goal was scored.
“I really liked our chances [starting overtime on the power play]. I thought we’d get one,” Burkholder said. As it turned out Niagara was outshot, 5-0, in the extra period and had to hang on for the tie.
Chubak, the game’s first star, stopped 34 of the 36 shots he faced, Bowling Green goalie Andrew Hammond made 28 stops.
A junior from Prince Albert, Sask., Chubak played in only the opener against Michigan last season. Still recovering from knee reconstruction and hip surgery in the summer of 2011. Chubak watched the rest of the season as senior Chris Noonan took charge. Saturday was sort of a breakthrough for Chubak.
“This was my first full game since I hurt my knee against Colgate [early in the 2010-11 season]. Everything feels good now” Chubak said.
“To work his way back, I thought he was really solid today,” Burkholder said. “He stole us a point. He looked like a poised veteran. That was a great start.”
Niagara took a 1-0 lead at 15:07 of the second period on a goal from the slot by freshman Rocky Gruttadauria.
“I was lucky the goalie came out, fell down and I chipped it over him. It was great to get it [his first collegiate goal] out of the way.” said Gruttadauria, who is from Rochester and played for the Buffalo Junior Sabres last year.
The visiting Falcons tied it, however, on a Cam Wojtala’s power-play goal with 3:10 left in the second period and then went ahead when defenseman Bobby Shea scored from the right point with 3:51 left in the third.
The Falcons appeared to be headed home with a victory before Lochner scored from the edge of the left circle.
“At first I was looking to pass but it wasn’t there so I shot glove side low. and it happened to go in,” said the sophomore winger from Alpharetta, Ga.
“Lochner made a heckuva play,” Burkholder said. “Most guys would have one-timed that. He collect the puck and waits and waits [for an opening]. He’s pretty gifted around the net.
Generally, Burkholder was pleased with his team’s opening performance, with one exception.
“I just wasn’t happy with the timing of some of our penalties,” he said. “It took a lot of momentum away from us.”
Niagara killed off five power plays, including a 5-on-3 for 1:15 at the end of the second and start of the third period. Niagara was 0 for 3 on its power play.