D2 Splits With SLU

by Kim Wrona

1/29/14—DeKalb, IL  The D2 Huskies traveled down to St. Louis University this past weekend for their final road trip of the 2013-14 season.

The Huskies dominated Friday night’s contest on the scoreboard. They were able to get out to a 4-0 lead in the first period, courtesy of junior forwards Brian Pounds (PPG), Nick Gorczyca (PPG) and Justin Rucinski (SHG) and senior forward Rob Bock.

Rucinski added his second shorthanded tally of the contest in the second period and senior forward Nick Leon recorded a power play goal in the third period to make it 6-0 NIU. With 8:11 left in regulation, SLU spoiled junior goaltender Alex Hare’s bid at a shutout with a power play goal; overall, Hare made 38 saves in the game. Despite that SLU marker, the Huskies were able to hang on for the 6-1 win.

“It felt good to get a big win on Friday against SLU,” head coach Chuck Rinaldo said. “We came off the bus flying and were able to establish a lot of momentum early in the first period. It was a perfect storm for us. Everything was working for us and SLU was having an off night. The key to our victory was that we were able to get point production from all of our lines. We need to keep that up as we head in to the playoffs in a few weeks.”

The Huskies got off to a similar start on Saturday as they charged out to a 3-0 lead in the first period. Sophomore defenseman Ron Coletta and Leon (twice) got on the board for NIU. SLU scored with 2:29 left in the opening frame to cut the deficit to two.

SLU then battled back in the second period with three goals to take a 4-3 lead. Leon was able to complete his hat trick and tie the game up at four with a power play goal with 7:56 remaining in the third period. SLU tallied with three minutes to go in regulation to put the home squad up 5-4 and there was no looking back afterwards for the Billikens.

“We knew SLU was going to be a different team on Saturday,” Rinaldo said. “They are too good of a team to have two off nights in a row. We had a great start again and were able to establish a solid lead. However we got a little too comfortable and stopped doing the little things in our D zone which caused SLU to get some ugly goals with pucks bouncing around the slot. After losing the lead, we regrouped and were able to battle back, but unfortunately our inconsistent play allowed SLU to keep their confidence and apply the necessary pressure to find the game winner late in the third.”

Now the Huskies turn their attention to this weekend’s games against the University of Michigan at Fox Valley Ice Arena.

“We need to keep a high level of intensity and high pressure on our forecheck against Michigan,” Rinaldo said. “We also need to try to be perfect in our defensive zone. They are a team that battles hard down low in the corners and in front of the net. We can't allow them to gain any advantages in our end. It's a huge weekend for us and if we can find a way to sweep, we could put ourselves in a good position to climb up the rankings and make regionals.”

Friday’s puck drop is slated for 7 pm and Saturday’s contest is set to begin at 2 pm.