NEVILLE TWP., PA- Niagara forward Jack Billings took his chances on a sharp angle shot 7:31 into the second overtime and got rewarded as he put the puck just barely past Robert Morris Colonials starting goaltender Noah West to give the Niagara Purple Eagles a 3-2 win on Saturday night. The victory tied the Atlantic Hockey Quarterfinal series at a game apiece forcing a decisive game three on Sunday.
The result wasn’t from the lack of effort on the Colonials part as they owned a 51-40 shot advantage for the game and had the better of the play in the first overtime period following a hard fought first sixty minutes of hockey. However, they were unable to find a way past Eagle netminder Chad Veltri who managed a career high 49 saves including a huge moment in the first overtime when he stopped Robert Morris forward Jordan Timmons from point blank range.
“I thought we were outstanding in the first overtime,” Robert Morris head coach Derek Schooley said. “We generated a lot of chances and played hard down below. I think that we got a little bit fatigued and they got a bad angle shot. No shot in overtime is a bad shot and obviously they proved that.”
Billings made his presence felt early as well as he gave the Eagles a first period lead at 11:23 when he finished a goalmouth scramble by getting the puck past West in the Robert Morris net. Just moments later, Justin Addamo knotted the scoreboard at one apiece when he sent a hard shot from the right circle past Veltri on the Colonials first power play opportunity.
Niagara answered almost immediately as Ludwig Stenlud scored to give his side the lead heading into the dressing room after twenty minutes of hockey. Robert Morris senior forward Nick Prkusic brought his side back even with his seventh goal of the season at 16:55 of the second period. From that point on, Veltri and West stood tall and took no chances in any unnecessary puck movement, electing to take their chances with faceoffs when necessary. However, the Eagles were able to keep a hot Colonials power play under control during critical stages of the third period with timely shot blocks and general disruption which proved a key to the final result.
“We played as hard as we can and we just couldn’t find a way to get one past Veltri,” Schooley added. “We just have to go watch video and see what we can do to be successful and come up with a game three. We have to draw from our leadership. All our guys have to step up. Every game from here on out is going to be an elimination game and you draw from your leadership group and we have a good group, a good set of captains and we know what we have ahead of us.”
The two teams meet on Sunday night at 7 pm at the Island Sports Center with the winner moving on to the semi final round of the Atlantic Hockey Tournament in Springfield, Massachusetts.