By Kim Wrona
11/27/13—DeKalb, IL The D2 Huskies played their first two home games this past weekend since November 7th. On Friday and Saturday, the Huskies took on the University of Iowa.
The Huskies got on the board first on Friday night with a breakaway goal from senior forward Nick Leon with 8:22 remaining in the 1st period. 24 seconds later, junior forward Justin Rucinski made it 2-0 NIU with his 19th marker of the season. Iowa got a power play marker with 6:34 left in the period to make it 2-1 and that was how the period ended. Junior goaltender Alex Hare made some good saves early on in the period to keep the game scoreless before the Huskies got on the board.
The rest of the game was a scoreless affair until there was 16:02 remaining in the 3rd period when Iowa tied the game at 2. The Huskies battled back to get the lead with 6:27 left in regulation with a goal from junior forward Brandon Niedziela as he tipped home a pass from junior forward Brian Pounds for his 4th tally on the 2013-14 campaign.
With the goalie pulled for the extra attacker, Iowa tied the game up at 3 with 21 seconds left in regulation and sent the game into overtime. In the extra frame, Iowa grabbed the win with 32 seconds left.
“Friday night’s game simply came down to Iowa wanting the win more than we did,” head coach Chuck Rinaldo said. “We played at 50% effort and Iowa played like it was game 7 of the Stanley Cup. Iowa deserved to win the game and we did not. I think it was a good lesson for our guys but a tough way to learn when we were so close to getting the victory. Hopefully we all understand that it takes a 100% effort from everyone during every shift to secure a win.”
Iowa outshot NIU 45-38 in the contest.
The Huskies could only dress 14 skaters for Saturday’s contest due to injuries and other situations. With senior defenseman Dan Stetzinger and junior forward Anthony Contillo already out of the line-up, the Huskies were without the services of sophomore forward Brandyn Maher who was injured during Friday’s game and senior forward Rob Bock who was out for the weekend. Sophomore defenseman Troy Heurlin was DQ’d for Saturday and the Huskies were also without graduate defenseman Brian Pickett.
Despite all of this, the Huskies were able to defeat Iowa 5-3.
“It's always tough to play a complete game with a short bench,” Rinaldo said. “We knew it was going to be tough but the guys had the right mentality and didn't over extend themselves and try to do too much. They worked hard and played responsibly in our defensive zone. When you do the little things and take it one shift at a time it makes life a little easier with a short bench. I'm glad they pulled through what could have been a very tough weekend for us.”
Rucinski got the Huskies on the board first just shy of the 5 minute mark of the opening frame on Saturday and Leon tallied a beautiful goal with 46.6 seconds remaining to give the Huskies a 2-0 lead going into the 1st intermission.
Freshman defenseman LJ Scimeca tallied a power play goal 1:03 into the sandwich stanza to give NIU a 3-0 lead; the marker was his 2nd on the season.
Hare stopped all 22 shots he faced in roughly 37 ½ minutes of work, but then he was injured on a play and forced to leave the game. He labored back to the dressing room and senior goaltender Nick Bonin came in for him in relief and finished out the 2nd period. Iowa was able to get on the board in that time to make it 3-1.
When the team returned to the ice for the 3rd period, Hare was back on the ice and ready to go for the 3rd period.
“The guys were happy to see Hare come back for the 3rd period,” Rinaldo said, “but we were also very confident with Bonin in net as well. We appreciate the effort all of our goalies have put in this year and we couldn't be where we are today without all three of them.”
At 2:01 of the period, Iowa closed the gap to 1 as the Hawkeyes scored to make it 3-2. But with 10:45 remaining in the period, the Huskies regained their 2 goal lead, courtesy of a shorthanded goal by Niedziela. Senior forward Mark Greenberg led 2-on-1 shorthanded rush into the Iowa zone and then dished over to Niedziela, who potted it for his 5th marker of the season.
“Niedziela was by far the first star of the weekend,” Rinaldo said. “He has elevated his play to a new level and is showing that he can maintain that level putting together a solid weekend against Iowa. I'm hoping other guys on the team can follow his example and put forth the hard work and desire that Nedz brings to the ice every shift. It's paying off for him in a big way and I can't wait to see him continue his success.”
With 7:11 left in the period, Leon added his 2nd goal of the game to make it 5-2. Iowa tallied with 6:39 left, but the Huskies were able to hold on for the win. The Huskies outshot Iowa 42-34 in this contest.
Saturday’s game also was big for the Huskies because it was senior forward and team captain Nick Remley’s last home game of his collegiate career as he graduates this semester. There was a small ceremony for Remley before puck drop on Saturday.
“Losing Remley is going to be a tough one for us,” Rinaldo said. “He's a good character guy and a great leader. The boys definitely had a little extra fight in them on Saturday to make sure Remley finished his playing career with a big win. We need to see some of the other guys step up and take on Remley’s role now, both on and off the ice.”
The Huskies are off this weekend because of Thanksgiving break. The next games for NIU are on Friday, December 6th and Saturday, December 7th at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Both games are MACHA Conference games. Friday’s tilt is set to start at 10:45 pm and Saturday’s game has a start time of 4:15 pm.