Watertown, Mass. -- Niagara was coming off a three-week layoff and had to endure treacherous travel conditions just to make it to Bentley for the Atlantic Hockey weekend series, but the Purple Eagles showed no signs of fatigue.
The preseason favorite skated stride-for-stride with first place Bentley on Friday night at the John A. Ryan Skating Rink on a frigid New England night. The result was a 2-2 tie between the two clubs who each finished the night with 36 shots on goal.
"[Bentley] is a first place team in our league. For us to come in here, coming off break, I was impressed with our intensity and passion level. Sometimes coming off a break you don't have those intangibles. I thought from start to finish we played a pretty good game," said Niagara head coach Dave Burkholder. "It was a very fast-paced, even hockey game," he added.
Niagara scored first and had a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes thanks to a breakaway goal by Ryan Rashid. The senior scored his sixth of the season after getting in the shooting lane of a Bentley defender and blocking the shot. The puck caromed into the neutral zone where Rashid picked it up, and he was off for the races. He backhanded the puck past Branden Komm, beating the goalie to the far side.
Still playing rather lethargically and lacking the intensity from some of the previous games, Bentley was able to pull even in the second period on a beautiful passing sequence that was finished off by the school's all-time scoring leader. Jared Rickford passed the puck up to Alex Grieve who drew two defenders his way before a nifty backhand pass to a wide open Gensler who banged the puck into an wide open net.
Grieve scored his 13th goal of the season just 3:16 into the third period when he snapped a shot off quickly in traffic after receiving the puck from defensemen Matt Blomquist and Steve Weinstein.
Midway through the third period Brock Edwards tied the game for Niagara after a sloppy breakout by Bentley. Matt Chiarantano and Kevin Ryan assisted on the goal.
Bentley had some terrific chances to end the game in overtime and send the crowd home happy, but the Falcons missed the net wide a few times and saw pucks bounce off the stick.
"We had a couple great looks there in overtime, but couldn't get a good bounce," said Bentley coach Ryan Soderquist. "More importantly I liked the way our guys responded in overtime. We came out trying to get a win and put a lot of pressure on them."
Some of the missed opportunities was the result of terrific goaltending by freshman Adrian Ignagni who made 34 saves. "He got us a point. He made some big saves as did [Komm]," said Burkholder.
The same two teams will meet Saturday at 7:05 for the series finale.
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Jeff Cox covers college, junior and high school hockey, NCAA recruiting, NHL Draft prospects and the AHL for SBNation. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.