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Niagara hopes senior tandem sparks tournament run

by James Murphy
The Niagara Purple Eagles may be mired in a four-game losing streak and trailing Atlantic Conference leader RIT by seven points headed into a weekend set at Air Force but head coach Dave Burkholder is confident his team can pull out their funk.

That's because not only are senior forwards Paul Zanette and Bryan Haczyk a dynamic duo on the ice, but leaders off the ice with the fortitude to lead Niagara (15-10-3, 12-8-1 Atlantic Conference) back into the win column and hopefully the NCAA tournament.

Headed into weekend action, Zanette was tied New Hampshire forward Paul Thompson for first in the nation in goals with 23 and Haczyk sat third with 22. Zanette has 42 points this season after putting up 51 points in his previous three seasons, while Haczyk has 37 as compared to 50 in his first three seasons. Haczyk also recently had a school record 22-game points streak broken. The pair, roommates since their freshman seasons, have gone from third line role players to go-to players at even strength and on the power play in just one season.

"To start this year, we basically said we're going to go as far as our senior class will go," Burkholder said. "We put the spotlight on David Ross, Paul and Bryan, and put them in premiere power-play spots that they haven't had before, and then the playing time that comes along with that. From the start it has been amazing what they've done. To do what they're doing has been incredible. They have carried the team."

Zanette and Haczyk carry the team off the ice as well and make the jobs of Burkholder and his staff that much easier with the way they lead by example. Burkholder is hoping their perseverance rubs off on their younger teammates.

"It's been, as a coach -- just what an example," Burkholder said. "They both graduated early this past semester. Bryan was a 3.9 (GPA), Paul was a 3.7. Now they're taking grad classes, so what an example. Bryan is one of my captains and they're fitness fanatics and have bought into the culture here. I want all my young guys watching them and emulating them on and off the ice. It's been a great example and you always want your seniors to have their career year their last year. To have them do what their doing is just great. It's going to help our young kids see, if I do what they're doing and stick with it -- it's not going to be easy, 365 days a year, in the weight room to be a Division 1 player -- and if you buy in, this is what's going to happen."

With five regulars out of the lineup recently -- sophomore forward Giancarlo Iuorio, who has centered Zanette and Haczyk for much of the season, sophomore defenseman Jason Beattie, sophomore forward Jeff Hannan, junior forward Jeff Baco and freshman goalie Carson Chubak -- the team has felt the sting of the injury bug and struggled. But with leaders such as Zanette and Haczyk as well as fifth-year senior alternate captain Ryan Annesley (who has 24 points), Burkholder knows his team can pull out of this funk they find themselves in.

"We're in great hands with our leadership," Burkholder said. "As coaches, we're not around the team a lot. We'll come in and have our two, two-and-a-half hours with the team, so it's basically in their hands and they've done a great job. These are the times when things are really, really tough and we've been hit with the injury -- with five regulars out of the lineup -- but that happens to every team over the course of a season. So we're looking to our seniors to hold it together and we get healthy down the stretch, and I think we've proven with our non-conference record and the teams that we've played that when we're going, we're a very good team that has a good chance of winning in this league."

Campus Notes -- Bryan Haczyk was named the Hockey Commissioners' Association National Division I Player of the Month for January 2011. During the first month of 2011, the reigning Atlantic Hockey Association Player of the Month finished with 12 goals and 15 points. The two-time AHA Player of the Week in January had five multiple-point games during the start of the new year, including a trio of three-point games. Haczyk averaged 1.5 goals per game in January, along with 1.88 points per game, a hot streak that allowed the Purple Eagle to set new career-highs in goals, assists and points. ... Ten NCAA hockey student-athletes who excel both on and off the ice were selected as finalists today for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award. The nominees are: Stephane Boileau, forward, Union (New York); Carter Camper, forward, Miami (Ohio); Cory Conacher, forward, Canisius; Chay Genoway, defense, North Dakota; Tanner House, forward, Maine; Jacques Lamoureux, forward, Air Force; Bryant Molle, defense, Alaska Fairbanks; Chase Polacek, forward, Rensselaer; Matt Read, forward, Bemidji State; and Calle Ridderwall, forward, Notre Dame. ... Despite being outshot 41-31 and allowing six power-play opportunities, Northeastern beat Harvard 4-0 to advance to the finals of the Beanpot Tournament in Boston on Monday. Forward Mike McLaughlin scored twice for the Huskies who will face Boston College in the championship game next Monday. The Eagles advanced to the finals on an overtime goal by Bruins prospect and defenseman Tommy Cross and beat rival Boston University 3-2.
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