UB hockey season comes to an end
Buffalo falls to Niagara, 3-1, in NECHL semifinal
Junior forward Luke Swimline takes a faceoff. The UB ice hockey team lost, 3-1, to Niagara Saturday night in the NECHL semifinals. Chad Cooper, The Spectrum
UB's dreams of consecutive Northeast Collegiate Hockey League Tournament (NECHL) titles came to an end Saturday night.
Niagara University (15-9, 10-4 NECHL), defeated the Bulls (24-9, 12-2 NECHL), 3-1, at The Northtown Center in front of an electrified crowd.
It was a disappointing night for the Bulls, who had several power play opportunities and 24 shots in the second period. Buffalo was unable to capitalize on its chances.
"Not the way we were hoping to go," said head coach Sal Valvo. "We worked hard all year. We had a lot of chances; I thought our power play had a lot of chances. We had possession in [Niagara's] zone, good traffic in front. A couple breaks went against us, and it ended up 3-1."
One of those breaks came near the end of the game when the Purple Eagles scored 7:39 into the third period. A scramble broke out in front of Buffalo's net and the puck got past senior goaltender Michael Musialowski, putting the Bulls behind 3-1.
Musialowski was irate after the goal, skating after the referee airing his protests.
"I didn't think it was a goal," Musialowski said. "I was right there and saw [the Niagara forward] direct it with his glove; I made sure I let [the ref] know. I'm an emotional guy on the ice. It sucks because if that doesn't count, it changes the whole game. It was our game to lose. It's unfortunate."
The Bulls struck first, going ahead 1-0 on a goal by junior forward Chris Marsack with 16:23 left into the second period. But the Purple Eagles' Jarred Mitrano was able to tie things up with 5:05 remaining.
With the third period underway, it seemed like Buffalo had the momentum after its dominating performance in the second, when UB outshot Niagara 24-13. But shortly after the puck drop, Niagara pulled ahead, making it a 2-1 game.
"It was close," Marsack said. "We've got a lot to work on. We were sloppy in our zone at times. We have a lot of guys returning, so hopefully we can pick up where we left off. It was a tough way to lose it."
The loss marks the end of the year for the Bulls, who had high hopes coming into the season after winning the NECHL in a double overtime thriller last year against the Purple Eagles. Buffalo will lose seniors Timothy Root, Johnathon Andhor, Timothy Benner, Shane Irwin and Michael Musialowski to graduation.
Buffalo also lost out on an automatic bid to the American Collegiate Hockey Association National Tournament this year in a tiebreaker with Syracuse, losing by just one goal. Valvo is already looking to the future, planning how his club will improve and become contenders yet again.
"I feel horrible; it sucks," Valvo said. "I feel the kids worked hard and deserved it, but didn't get it. We're really excited about next year, though - we have our top scoring line and second line back and possibly our best recruit coming in, a kid who could've went Division I [NCAA]. He's going to be a leader the moment he steps on the ice. We're real excited."
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