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Bemidji State men's hockey: Niagara deals Beavers sixth straight loss

Bemidji State's Brandon Marino (left) is unable to gain control of the puck while battling Niagara's Ryan Annesley (16) in front of Niagara goalie Juliano Pagliero during the second period of Friday's game at John Glas Fieldhouse. Pioneer Photo/Eric Stromgren

Get a lead, sustain it and build on it. That's the key to winning a hockey game and something the Bemidji State men's hockey team couldn't do in falling to the Niagara Purple Eagles 4-3 Friday night.

The Beavers got the lead and Niagara answered. The Beavers fought back to tie in the third period and Niagara answered. The result was the Beavers' sixth loss in a row, dropping their record to 8-13-0 overall and 4-3 in College Hockey America.

"I don't know, I think this is the biggest losing streak since I've been coaching here," said BSU head coach Tom Serratore. "Sometimes I think we respect our opponents too much. Losses against Dartmouth, UND, UMD, they're still losses and it can wear on your psyche.

"As a player when you're involved in this type of streak, all I know is you better not start gripping your stick. You have to keep playing intelligently, take care of the puck and be aware of your defense. If you do that winning will take care of itself."

Hopefully, the winning will take care of itself for BSU, starting tonight in the series finale.

The Beaver started Friday's game strong, scoring the first goal. But Niagara (11-9-1, 4-1-0 CHA) tied 14 seconds later and went ahead just 1:45 after that. The teams split a pair of goals in the second, giving Niagara a 3-2 lead entering the third. BSU came back to tie near the five minute mark. But Niagara responded once again to score what turned out to be the game winner about three minutes later.

The three first period goals came fast and furious with all scoring taking place in a span of less than two minutes.

The Beavers connected first. Tyler Scofield picked off a Niagara pass at the far circle, walked in and scored on a hard wrist shot at 10:23. Niagara then regrouped to take a 2-1 lead on a pair of fortunate bounce goals 1:45 apart.

Before the crowd had a chance to sit down after Bemidji scored, Niagara evened things up just 14 seconds later. Vince Rocco threw the puck in front of the net that and it was deflected by Armando Scarlato past BSU goalie Matt Dalton.

Then, at 12:22, Niagara scored again using the same tactic. This time defender Derek Foam tossed the puck in front from the near corner and it deflected in shortside with Paul Zanette getting credit for the goal.

Dalton had the save of the period, thwarting a Niagara 2 on 1. Wes Consorti took a pass down low and looked to have a wide open net, but Dalton shot across the crease and made the save.

Niagara had an 11-7 shot advantage in the period.

The team split goals in the second period, making it 3-2 going into the final 20 minutes. Niagara made it 3-1 at 8:52 as Egor Mironov scored on a blast from the near circle that deflected off Dalton's glove into the net. The Purple Eagles then had a golden opportunity to make it 4-1, but were thwarted by Dalton who made a sprawling save on Ted Cook from point blank range.

The Beavers cut the lead to 3-2 with a power goal at 15:01. Two penalties were called on Niagara on the same play, resulting in a BSU 5 on 3 advantage for two minutes. The Beavers Matt Francis took a fine pass from Scofield in front and ripped a shot that deflected off the cross bar into the net.

The Beavers had a 15-7 shot advantage in the period and generated some sustained pressure offensively for the first time in the game.

The Beavers looked to take control of the game early in the third, tying it up 3-3. Freshman Ben Kinne fought for the puck on the near boards in the Beavers offensive zone, beat the defenders to a loose puck, skated in and zipped a shot from down low. The puck found its way into the net, tying the game.

But as they had done the whole night, the Purple Eagles responded. David Ross scored on a bullet from the near circles that appeared to be tipped early. Dalton had no chance and Niagara took the lead for good.

The Beavers had a few opportunities to tie the game once again down the stretch, pulling Dalton with 1:39 remaining. But Niagara goalie Juliano Pagliero was up to the task and recorded the win in net.

"Our third line of Kinne, Shea Walters and Ryan Cramer was the best thing we had going," Serratore reported. "They were getting the puck low, moving their feet, moving the puck and playing strong along the boards. I'm really happy with how they're playing; they've been our best line for three games. That's the kind of play we need from our other three lines so we can sustain pressure."

A bright spot for the Beavers was generating a strong number of shots on net, something the team has been struggling with all year. The Beavers out-shot Niagara 37-30 for the game.

"We're at the point where we need to win a game and get our confidence back," Serratore reported. "We did some good things (Friday). Hopefully we can build on it."

The two teams conclude the series tonight at the John Glas Fieldhouse in a 7:05 p.m. start.