D2 Huskies Fall to CMU

by Kim Wrona

1/24/14—DeKalb, IL  The D2 Huskies took on Central Michigan University this past weekend at Fox Valley Ice Arena for a two game set, but the Huskies were not able to come away as victors.

NIU battled back twice in the tilt to tie the game. Once came in the first period when junior forward Justin Rucinski scored a power play goal with 2:40 left in the frame to tie the game at one. The marker was his 24th goal of the season.

CMU jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the second period, but the Huskies buckled down and overcame the three goal hole. Senior forward Nick Leon tallied an unassisted goal with 9:19 left in the middle frame to start the NIU comeback. Rucinski and senior defenseman Troy Hickey tallied about ten minutes apart in the third period to tie the game at four.

CMU scored with 16.3 seconds left in regulation, causing the Huskies to drop the game 5-4.

“Friday’s game was well played by both teams with a fast pace and a lot of offensive opportunities,” head coach Chuck Rinaldo said. “We battled back from a [three] goal deficit to tie the game and had high hopes to come away with a tie and a chance to win it in overtime.  Unfortunately, we fell short with a break down in our defensive zone on a face-off that allowed CMU to get a shot that found its way to the back of the net after it pinballed off a few shin pads.  It was a tough break for us and definitely stung a bit to lose in those last few seconds against a very solid CMU team.”

Saturday’s contest also saw the Huskies battle back to tie the game twice, except this time both tying goals came in the first period. After falling behind 1-0 early in the period, Rucinski tallied a power play marker with 14:08 left in the frame to equalize the game.

CMU scored just over four minutes later to retake the lead. With 3:39 remaining in the period, junior forward Joe Serpico potted a power play goal to tie the game at two, which gave NIU some momentum going into the second period.

CMU was able to jump out in front of the Huskies just before the five minute mark of the sandwich stanza, and the visitors wouldn’t look back. They tallied twice more to make the final score 5-2.

“We played well on Saturday, too, but we didn't quite put together as good of a defensive effort as we did on Friday,” Rinaldo said.  “The two contributing factors to that were the fact that we had some guys go down with injuries on Friday night which hurt the depth of our line-up and we also had a lot more penalties which caused some big momentum shifts.  We played a much cleaner game on Friday and stayed out of the penalty box.  That helped us keep the flow of the game going in our direction.  On Saturday, we shot ourselves in the foot too many times by getting a penalty that would halt the momentum we were starting to build.”

The Huskies now turn their attention to the weekend as they travel down to St. Louis University to take on the Billikens.

“We need to play a very disciplined weekend against SLU,” Rinaldo said. “We need to stay out of the penalty box and be sure we do all of the little things in our D zone in order to limit their opportunities and start a quick transition to offense.  SLU is a team that will want to jump on us early at their home rink and not give us any room to breathe.  If we can come out fast and get a few quick ones on them, then we will have a good chance to get two W's.”

The Billikens are currently on a six game winning streak and are coming off of a sweep of the University of Illinois. The Huskies’ games against SLU have start times of Friday at 7:45 pm and Saturday at 3 pm at Webster Groves Ice Arena in Webster Groves, Missouri.