LEWISTON — Niagara needed some spark to its offense. The Purple Eagles had struggled to put goals on the board heading into a two-game series with Army.
But they certainly flipped the switch this weekend.
With a hat trick from sophomore Hugo Turcotte and two goals from freshman Vince Muto, Niagara dominated the Black Knights, 8-3, in front of 1,559 at Dwyer Arena Saturday.
The win gave Niagara (3-6-1 overall, 3-1-1 Atlantic Hockey) the sweep over Army as the Purple Eagles scored 13 goals over the two games.
It was the first career hat trick for Turcotte, who had just one goal heading into the game. Centering a line with Patrick Divjak and Ryan Rashid, he helped lead a Niagara attack based on speed and strength.
“He’s electric,” Dave Burkholder said of Turcotte. “He’s the fastest kid out there. He and Patrick Divjak had an unbelievable weekend. They’re two of our go-to guys and they’ve been a bit snakebitten. For them to punch the clock and work as hard as they did, that’s when you get rewarded like that. It couldn’t happen at a better time. We’re trying to find ourselves and it was a big conference weekend.”
It was Army which jumped to a 1-0 lead after the first period. With 4:02 left, the Black Knights hit a post followed by a big body save from Adrian Ignagni. But a bouncing puck was tipped by C.J. Reuschiein and got past Ignagni for a 1-0 Army lead with 2:45 left.
Then cue a crazy second period that saw seven goals scored between the two teams. For Niagara, the first four of the night came from defensemen.
Muto scored the first of his career to tie the game on a bullet shot from the right point.
“Finally our D put up some points,” said Muto, a native of Niagara Falls. “My first college goal was from a nice face-off win and I just buried a slap shot. Our forwards were feeding our D all night at the points. We were open and we had good puck movement all around.”
Kevin Albers ripped a shot from the point to give Niagara a 2-1 lead. Just 56 seconds later, Muto struck again, this time skating hard across the high slot and snapping the puck into the net.
Kevin Ryan scored a four-on-four goal to extend the lead to 4-1. It was the 50th career point for the senior defenseman.
“A big part of the game is when you can get pucks through from the point,” Burkolder said. “That’s a big deal for our D to chip in like that. Our forwards did a good job stacking the crease.”
Once the forwards did that, they started scoring, too. Turcotte notched his first of the game at 14:56 of the second to give Niagara a 5-1 lead.
The Purple Eagles looked as if they would roll to another easy win over Army, but the Black Knights scored twice in 33-second span to make it 5-3 at the end of the second.
Niagara thwarted comeback notions in the third by netting three goals.
Turcotte scored his second of the game midway through the period. Rashid scored on a tip-in with 5:57 left and Turcotte completed his hat trick with 2:22 left to close out the scoring.
“We’ve struggled to score goals the last few games, scoring just one or two,” Turcotte said. “Things didn’t go our way. But this weekend with a lot of goals, it gives guys a lot of confidence.”
Army, which picked up its first win of the season on Tuesday at Sacred Heart, fell to 1-8-0 overall, 1-4-0 in Atlantic Hockey.
The Purple Eagles play their next eight games on the road.
They travel to Erie, Pa., on Tuesday to play Mercyhurst in an Atlantic Hockey Association matchup. Then they’re at No. 2 Michigan on Friday and at No. 19 Cornell (Nov. 26) before returning to conference action in December.