By Kim Wrona
10/1/13—DeKalb, IL The D2 Huskies skated on home ice at Fox Valley Ice Arena in Geneva for the first time in 2013-14 this past weekend. The homestand was very productive for the Huskies as they swept the weekend set against the University of Missouri and improved their record to 3-1-0.
“It's always great to play at home,” head coach Chuck Rinaldo said. “The guys are very comfortable and confident when playing at home and it’s quickly becoming known by our opponents as a tough place to play at. We appreciate all the support from our fans and it always motivates us to give them a good show and earn some big wins.”
Friday night’s tilt didn’t have the most ideal start for NIU. Mizzou junior forward Danny Walsh tallied just before the five minute mark of the first period to put the visitors up 1-0. However, he Huskies came storming back after the intermission with 7 unanswered goals during the next two periods.
Junior forward Nick Gorczyca tallied his first goal of the season to tie the game at 1. Freshman forward Tyler Sukel gave the Huskies their first lead of the night with a shot from the left circle while on the power play. 18 seconds later, junior forward Anthony Contillo scored his first goal as a Huskie to give the home team a 3-1 lead. With 4:43 remaining in the second period, freshman defenseman LJ Scimeca sprung Gorczyca on a breakaway; Gorczyca made no mistake and found the back of the net for his second marker of the game.
Senior defenseman Troy Hickey tallied a 5-on-3 power play goal just before the midway mark of the third period to make it 5-1 Huskies. 38 seconds later, Sukel added his second power play goal of the night. Senior defenseman Danny Stetzinger continued the trend of power play goals with a tally that came with 4:29 left in regulation to make the final score 7-1 Huskies.
“Any time you can find success on the power play it adds a great dynamic to the offense and can help change the momentum of a game very quickly,” Rinaldo said. “I was very happy to see us capitalize on our power play opportunities and I hope we can continue to build on that success this upcoming weekend.”
Junior goaltender Alex Hare was in net for the Huskies on Friday night. He played well for NIU and made 30 saves in the victory.
Hare got a rest on Saturday afternoon and senior netminder Nick Bonin got the start in net for the Huskies. NIU gave Bonin a lead to work with 1:24 into the contest as senior forward Mark Greenberg one-timed a pass from senior forward Joe Boris into the back of the net for his first goal on the 2013-14 campaign. Junior Nick Webb tied the game for Mizzou just before the 13 minute mark of the period, but Sukel tallied his 4th goal of the season to give NIU the lead back with a power play marker at 15:08. Mizzou wouldn’t go away and they tied the game at 2 with 56 seconds remaining in the opening frame.
Greenberg added his second goal of the game at 2:23 of the middle stanza after collecting a Boris rebound to make it 3-2 NIU. The Huskies power play struck for the second time of the game just over a minute later as junior forward Justin Rucinski scored his first goal of the season. With 11:06 to go in the period, Bonin was cut on the hand and was forced to leave the game after a bunch of players fell on top of him in NIU’s crease. Senior goaltender Jonny Perillo came in for Bonin in his first game action of the season. Mizzou came within one of NIU when sophomore Alex Roth tallied less than two minutes after the injury occurred.
“The injury to Bonin definitely added an odd twist to the game,” Rinaldo said. “I think everyone was a little rattled and shocked when the injury happened. Guys were concerned about how bad the injury really was and caused them to lose focus for a few minutes.”
Greenberg restored the 2 goal lead and completed his hat trick with 7:57 to go in the period. Senior forward Rob Bock extended the Huskie lead to 6-3 with 4:13 left in the second, but Mizzou closed the gap to 6-5 by the time the horn sounded for the intermission.
Senior forward Nick Leon gave the Huskies some breathing room in the third period with 10:41 to go as he ripped a shot from the left circle past Mizzou freshman goaltender Kyle Taylor while on the power play. Mizzou continued to be resilient as freshman Kyle Conway brought the Tigers within one again just about 2 minutes later. The Huskies took another 2 goal lead with 1:02 remaining as Sukel tallied his 5th goal of the season. He found himself on a breakaway and went five-hole on Taylor. Rucinski sealed the deal for the Huskies and made it 9-6 with 12 seconds left in the game with an empty net goal.
Now, the focus for the Huskies is on this coming weekend when they head on out to The Edge in Bensenville to take on Robert Morris University. Friday’s game starts at 8:50pm and Saturday’s contest begins at 7:50pm.
“Robert Morris will be a big challenge for us this weekend,” Rinaldo said. “They have a lot of key returners from last season and a couple of very talented new players. They play a very hard-nosed and physical game and like to win the physical battles. We will need to make sure that we are always working harder than them and sticking to our systems. Using our depth will be very important. We will need to see production from all of our lines this weekend in order to be successful.”