By Kim Wrona
11/12/15 – DeKalb, IL | The DII Huskies traveled down to East Alton, Illinois for two games against Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville on November 6 and 7.
Friday’s game saw the home squad jump out to a big lead early in the contest. SIUe scored three times within the first 12:23 of the game. Sophomore goaltender Jake Leon made 11 saves on 14 shots during the span, but was pulled after the third goal. Junior goaltender JoJo Durrbeck relieved him for the rest of the game.
The netminder switched jumped the Huskies enough to get on the scoreboard. Senior defenseman Troy Heurlin tallied a power play goal just over one minute later to make the score 3-1.
SIUe tallied once again before the end of the period to make the score 4-1 going into the middle frame. The Huskies were able to cut their deficit to two goals before the halfway mark of the period as senior forward and team captain Justin Rucinski scored an unassisted marker.
SIUe added two more goals in the time remaining in the second period to make it 6-2 in the home team’s favor going into the third period.
Senior forward Anthony Ricciardi tallied at the 12:24 mark of the final period to make the score 6-3, but the Huskies wouldn’t get any closer as the Cougars took the victory.
Durrbeck made 31 saves on 34 shots in his 47:37 of playing time. SIUe outshot NIU by a margin of 48-25. The Huskies were only able to tally on one of their four power plays whereas the Cougars scored on one of their two man advantages.
“We came out and weren’t ready to play,” Durrbeck said. “They’re a fast-moving team, so if we weren’t ready to play, we knew we were going to be behind the 8-ball and that was what happened. They came out firing on all cylinders. They got some quick goals in the first period and we were off to a slow start. That’s not what we wanted to do. It put us behind the whole game.”
“We started off really slow,” sophomore forward Eric Svejda said. “They obviously had their feet moving a lot faster because they’re used to a faster style of game, which we had to adjust to. …
After we settled down and got a couple goals on them, we put them on their heels for a little bit. [But] obviously the game didn’t end well for us.”
“Friday was a really slow start for us,” coach Nick Madonia said. “They jumped out all over us. We had to burn a timeout in the first period, which I hate having to do. … Jake Leon will be the first one to tell you he wasn’t 100 per cent on his game, but at the same time, the guys in front of him weren’t really playing. JoJo came in and played really well. Again, we relied a little bit too much on our first line for points and [paired with] a couple injuries, [we] just really weren’t able to pick up the slack. All in all, it was a pretty poor outing.”
The Huskies needed to come out of the gate better on Saturday, but failed to do so. SIUe scored four consecutive goals in the first 13:51 of the contest. Heurlin scored to get NIU on the scoreboard at the 16:16 mark of the period, but the Cougars responded with a marker 40 seconds later to make it 5-1.
Svejda and junior forward Brandon Niedziela tallied in the second period for the Huskies to cut their deficit to two goals, but once again SIUe responded and potted another marker. The final score held up as 6-3 in the Cougars’ favor.
Durrbeck, who started in net for NIU, made 43 saves on 49 shots in the game. The Cougars outshot the Huskies 49-22. NIU failed to convert on three power play opportunities while SIUe scored on one of its four man advantages.
“We went into Saturday’s game hoping to get a different result,” Durrbeck said. “But unfortunately, the same thing happened to us again. We were behind again going into the second period [in a] pretty deep hole.”
“Again, we started off slow, but if we erase that first period, we could have won that game,” Svejda said.
“The first period we just didn’t come out to play,” junior forward Cody Billeck said. “I don’t think everyone was in their element. No one was really working together. But when we came out after the first intermission, everyone put their heads in the right place and we picked it up, came back with a couple of good goals and put ourselves back in the game after being down 5-1.”
“Saturday’s DII game was one of the worst first periods that I’ve seen as a coach,” Madonia said. “Again, we gave up three fast goals and had to burn a timeout. We were able to score a goal and then almost immediately gave it right back up. We went into the locker room down 5-1. I had a long conversation with everyone and just let everyone know that a lot more is expected out of them than what’s been shown the last couple weeks. This team has a ton of potential. They have all the potential in the world, but potential doesn’t win you games. It’s not going to score goals. It’s not going to beat ranked teams. You have to actually show up, play the full 60 minutes or full 120 minutes on the weekend and you have to have a little bit of heart. Right now, the last couple of weeks, we’ve been lacking heart.”
“Both Friday and Saturday we came out very flat,” assistant coach Billy Lyne said. “We had to use our timeout both times by the ten minute mark of the first period, which is something we should never have to do. Our team just wasn’t in the game it seemed like. No one was really moving their feet, no one was really working hard and we didn’t have that gear that we needed for the weekend.”
The Huskies will try to right the ship over the next three games as they will partake in the Robert Morris University Showcase on November 13, 14 and 15. NIU will face Northern Michigan University on the 13th, Robert Morris University Maroon on the 14th and DePaul University on the 15th.
“[Hopefully] we can just work on our game a little bit and try and play a full 60 minutes each day,” Durrbeck said.
“I think what we have to do is just do the simple things, the fundamentals,” Svejda said. “We have to get the puck in deep and just grind hard.”
“DII needs to play their best three game stretch of the season so far,” Madonia said. “All three teams are going to be good teams. They’re not going to give you a chance to work your way back into games if you go down early. So, they need to make sure they’re on top of their game from the puck drop and make sure they don’t have any let-ups.”
The Huskies will take on Northern Michigan at 6 p.m. on Friday at the John Street Edge Ice Arena in Bensenville. The contest against RMU Maroon is slated to begin at 3 p.m. on Saturday at The Edge Ice Arena. The Huskies will then finish out the weekend with a 2:20 p.m. start on Sunday against DePaul at The Edge.