By Kim Wrona
11/18/15 – DeKalb, IL | The DII Huskies participated in the Robert Morris University Showcase in Bensenville on November 13, 14 and 15.
The Huskies faced Northern Michigan University on Friday and NIU got out to a fast start. Freshman forward Jordan Niedziela put the Huskies up by a goal just over two minutes into the first period.
Freshman forward Erik Gavert added on a marker near the 7:30 mark of the opening frame to give NIU a 2-0 lead. Before the first period concluded, Northern Michigan tied the game up at two with a shot that beat junior goaltender JoJo Durrbeck glove side.
The Wildcats scored the lone goal in the second period to take their first lead of the game. They then added two more goals to begin the third period to make the score 5-2.
Freshman forward David Madrigal broke the string of Northern Michigan goals with a power play marker to bring the Huskies within two with over half a period of hockey left in the game.
Unfortunately for NIU, the Wildcats scored their own power play goal less than three minutes later to restore their three goal lead.
Senior defenseman Troy Heurlin’s shot from the point deflected into the back of the net off of the Northern Michigan goaltender’s glove at the 12:28 mark of the third period to bring the Huskies within two goals again, but the Wildcats were able to hang on for the 6-4 victory.
Durrbeck made 37 saves on 43 shots in the contest. The shots on goal were almost even, but the Wildcats outshot the Huskies 43-42. NIU scored on one of its three power plays and Northern Michigan scored on its lone power play.
“We came out with a good start,” Durrbeck said. “It was something that we wanted to do, especially since our last couple of games before that we didn’t have good starts. We did a lot of things well. I think during the latter half of the first period, we let them back into the game.”
“We got out to a quick start,” head coach Chuck Rinaldo said. “But we had some lapses throughout the middle of the game that let them back in and gave them confidence and hope. Things kind of spiraled from there and we couldn’t recover.”
“We made that one mistake in the second period and it cost us one goal,” Durrbeck said. “We went into the third period just down a goal. … You want to have a lead, but a one goal deficit isn’t as bad as you’d think. We came out in the third and we let the game slip away from us. We took a couple penalties and they capitalized on them. I think we didn’t go into the third period wanting the win. I think they wanted it more than us and it showed.”
The Huskies took on Robert Morris University-Maroon on Saturday afternoon. The first period was a scoreless affair, but featured a handful of penalties by each team.
Junior forward Brandon Niedziela started the second period off on a good note for the Huskies as he scored just 5:43 into the period. Senior forward Nick Gorczyca added onto NIU’s lead later on in the middle frame to make it 2-0.
The third period was not kind to the Huskies as Robert Morris scored three goals in 30 seconds completely change the look of the scoreboard. The Eagles now had a 3-2 lead.
Heurlin was able to tie the game up with a shot from the left circle while on the power play with 3:30 remaining in regulation.
The Huskies had momentum on their side until a controversial goal changed the game.
The Eagles took a shot in the NIU zone and it appeared to hit the crossbar and the play continued. The referee on the ice called no goal, but during the next stoppage of play, that ruling was overturned and RMU now had a 4-3 lead. The time on the clock was never reset so there was now 1:31 left in regulation.
The Eagles then added an empty net goal with 19 seconds left to make the final score 5-3.
Sophomore goaltender Nick Bove made 36 saves on 40 shots in the contest. NIU outshot RMU 49-41.
“It was one of those situations where you’ll hear a lot of people blame referees and bad calls and decisions, but they actually didn’t lose the game for us because we gave up a two goal lead that put us in that situation,” Rinaldo said. “We could have done our job and held onto that two goal lead and we wouldn’t have had that controversy. But ultimately, it’s too bad. It’s tough to see the way the game ended because it would have been nice to have the players decide the outcome. But at the same time, we had our opportunities. We just couldn’t finish.”
The Huskies turned the page on that game and had to focus on their Sunday game against DePaul University.
For the third game in a row, NIU scored the first goal of the contest. This time it was sophomore defenseman Tommy Turner that put the Huskies up in the game with a power play goal. The marker came at the 3:05 mark of the first period.
The lead didn’t last for long though as DePaul scored twice before the period ended to tie the game up and then take its first lead of the tilt.
The Blue Demons then extended their lead to 3-1 four minutes into the middle frame. Sophomore forward Eric Svejda cut the Huskies’ deficit back down to one with a breakaway goal just over one minute later. But before the period ended, DePaul scored once again to make the score 4-2.
Brandon Niedziela tallied to open the third period, but DePaul battled back to restore its lead once again to make the final score 5-3 in the Blue Demons’ favor.
Sophomore goaltender Jake Leon made 39 saves on 44 shots in the game. DePaul outshot NIU 44-27. NIU went 1-9 on the power play while DePaul went 3-7 on the man advantage.
“We were short-staffed [with injuries] all weekend,” Rinaldo said. “For a third game on the weekend, playing probably the strongest team in the tournament, I think we put up a good showing.
Overall, I look forward to playing them in our regular season series because I think with a full staff we’ll do well against them. We just have to make sure we shut down their top line, which we did a pretty good job at. Having only three lines makes it very tough.”
The Huskies will now travel down to Florida to take on Florida Gulf Coast University on November 20 and 21.
“We all know Florida Gulf Coast is a good team,” Durrbeck said. “So we just have to have a good week of practice and come into the games this weekend and play a real solid game. We [can’t make] mistakes or [they’ll] capitalize on them. Hopefully, we’ll force them to make mistakes and capitalize on their mistakes.”
“Florida Gulf Coast is one of the best teams in the country,” Rinaldo said. “They’re a team that we’re going to have to stay as disciplined as possible [against] and try to match lines and do our best to limit their opportunities. I believe we have the capabilities of both playing with them and competing at a high level and, who knows, we could find a way to steal one from them. But they key is us playing three full periods and executing.”
The Huskies will face Florida Gulf Coast at 8:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday at Germain Arena in Estero, Florida.