by Kim Wrona
1/16/14—DeKalb, IL The Huskies were back in action on January 10th and 11th at Fox Valley Ice Arena against Northern Michigan University to kick off the second semester. NIU started on the right foot as they swept the Wildcats with 5-1 and 4-1 victories.
The Huskies got on the board first on the 10th with a power play tally from senior forward Mark Greenberg before the halfway mark of the opening period, but NMU was able to tie the game just over a minute later. The Huskies took the lead back in the second period with junior forward Justin Rucinski’s 21st goal of the season. Six seconds later, senior forward Nick Leon got on the board to make it 3-1 Huskies. The third period saw the Huskies finish strong as they added 2 power play goals from junior forward Anthony Ricciardi and senior forward Joe Boris.
“We had a very good start in the first period, which was something we’ve been in need of,” said head coach Chuck Rinaldo. “Playing at home–which we haven’t had much of lately–it felt good and we settled right in and didn’t let them get comfortable. The second and third period we kind of leveled off, but we played a good swarming game and we didn’t let them breathe and didn’t let them have good opportunities.”
The Huskies’ contest on the 11th was another great game for the home squad. They tallied three times in the first period courtesy of Rucinski (PPG), graduate defenseman Brian Pickett and Greenberg (PPG). Ricciardi added his second goal of the season in the third period to give the Huskies a 4-0 lead. Junior goaltender Alex Hare’s shutout bid came to an end with 6:31 left in regulation, but the Huskies locked it down after that. Hare played in both tilts on the weekend and made 35 saves on Friday and 28 saves on Saturday.
“We had another good start on Saturday,” Rinaldo said. “We got two quick goals and were able to get their starting goalie pulled right away which was nice. They came out to try and change momentum, then it got a little chippy, but our guys stayed disciplined as much as they could and didn’t get into too much trouble. We settled back in for the second and third and played our game and didn’t give them too much to go on. We had a few penalties we should not have had, but overall we kept them even and shut them down.”
A key component to the Huskies sweep this past weekend was the fact that they had a full and healthy line-up coming out of the winter break.
“It’s exactly what we needed,” Rinaldo said, “Going into the end of first semester, the odds were against us immediately with having such a short bench. We play such a tough schedule that you can’t play without depth. We’re one of the better teams in our region when we have all our bodies and are ready to go. We have eight games left that are against teams that are ranked ahead of us and we need to be healthy to have success.”
Next up for the Huskies in those remaining eight games is a very strong Central Michigan University team.
“Central is a very deep team,” Rinaldo said. “We need to find a way to get more production out of our 3rd and 4th lines. That’s the best way we’re going to beat this team. We’ve had great production out of our 1st line, good production out of our 2nd line and the 3rd line is doing their job, but they need to put pucks in the net. They’re (Central) going to frustrate our first line. If we can get production from top to bottom we should do well.”
The Huskies host the Chippewas at Fox Valley Ice Arena on Friday, January 17th at 9:40 pm and Saturday, January 18th at 2 pm.