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Buffalo hockey wins rivalry night, looks ahead

The UB Bulls look to win NECHL

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After coming up short three times last season, the Buffalo Bulls (5-5, 2-0 NECHL) men’s hockey team toppled rival Niagara Purple Eagles (2-8, 2-1 NECHL), 4-2, in their first attempt this season.

Buffalo is now .500 and in the midst of a 3-game win streak. They are undefeated in two league games and look to capitalize off the momentum after beating their NECHL rival.

“It’s definitely a pivot point,” said forward Eric Szczecinski. “It seems like the first couple games of the season we started out a little bit slow but especially after today’s win, we’re really on the upbeat for the rest of the season.”

Buffalo’s starting line, that includes Szczecinski, forward Eric Paradowski, and forward Brad Tardif all played well against Niagara. Szczecinski had two goals of his own as well as an assist on one of Tardif’s goals. The pairing of Szczecinski and Tardif is a new combo for the team, but may be an important part of the rotation moving forward.

“Oh yeah, me and [Szczecinski], just something that was thrown together last week,” Tardif said. “My first week playing with him and yeah we were just working real well down in the corners, he’d cycle to me, I’d cycle to him. There was kind of pinching on us low so it was leaving the guy in the slot wide open and it was just working… the chemistry was just there tonight.”

Tardif certainly did his part to ensure the Bulls would get the win and finished Friday night with four points, two goals and two assists. His highlight of the night was a shorthanded goal that came after he intercepted a pass between Niagara defensemen and took it the length of the ice before decking out the goalie and finishing.

Buffalo kept the momentum from Friday when they beat Indiana University of Pennsylvania 5-1 on Saturday. Although IUP is not an NECHL team, the confidence boost is still a big help to the team.

But the team has no shortage of confidence and has high expectations moving forward in the conference.

“The rest of conference play, we wanna win every game,” Tardif said Friday. “Today was definitely a good benchmark for our play, we’ve only played nine games now, ten games almost, and only one league game prior to tonight. So it was kind of tough to judge where we’d be in the league, but coming out beating Niagara here tonight at home was definitely good, we’re feeling real good about it.”

Their next NECHL test comes when they visit the Rochester Institute of Technology Tigers (3-3-1, 3-1-0 NECHL). They will continue to try and hit teams hard and fast.

“We’ve been running three lines the first five minutes of the game, trying to set a tone and then going to our four line rotation” said Buffalo head coach Jeremy Kersten. “It’s great to see that each line in contributing, it’s good that we’re not relying on one line to score goals.”

While Buffalo has a positive outlook for the rest of the season, they know things are only getting started. Niagara has competed in the last four conference championship games and Syracuse being the defending champs, every game will count for the Bulls.

Coach Kersten has already turned his focus to the next time around with Niagara.

“It tends to come down to us, Niagara and Syracuse,” Kersten said. “And even though it was a two goal game. Three years ago we didn’t go to nationals because we scored one less goal then Syracuse. We beat ‘em 3-2, they beat us 3-1… The next game’s the more important game… We gotta play Niagara again, if they win by three, this means nothing.”

The Bulls host the Utah Utes (6-5) Friday night at the Northtown Center. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m.

Daniel Pertuccelli is a staff writer and can be reached at sports@ubspectrum.com.


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