By Kim Wrona
3/7/16 – DeKalb, IL | The DII Huskies finished the 2015-16 regular season with a record of 16-15-1-1-0 after splitting the last set of games against Saint Louis University on February 6 and 7. The Huskies then took part in the MACHA Gold playoffs on February 13.
NIU had a bye for the first round of the playoffs. In the second round, the Huskies took on the University of Iowa in Webster Groves, Missouri.
NIU got on the board first in the contest as senior forward Joe Serpico netted his third goal of the season at the 10:19 mark of the opening period. The Huskies weren’t able to hang on to the lead for the second period though as Iowa tied the game up at one with 33 seconds left in the period.
The Iowa power play owned the second period of play as the Hawkeyes converted three times on the man advantage. The goals were scored at 6:08, 7:58 and 12:02 of the middle frame.
Iowa took the 4-1 lead into the third period and added to it as the Hawkeyes scored their fifth goal of the night at the 2:40 mark of the final frame.
Senior forward and team captain Justin Rucinski cut into the Hawkeye lead as he scored his 28th goal of the season less than three minutes later to make the score 5-2.
Unfortunately for the Huskies, they couldn’t make a comeback. They dropped the game and their season came to an end.
Sophomore goaltender Jake Leon made 17 saves on 22 shots in the contest. The Huskies outshot the Hawkeyes by a margin of 38-22. Iowa went 3-6 on the power play while NIU went 1-9 on the man advantage. The Huskies finished the entire 2015-16 season with a record of 16-16-1-1-0.
“It was disappointing to drop the playoff game to Iowa,” head coach Chuck Rinaldo said. “Credit to them for playing well and taking advantage of their chances. One bad penalty caused us to lose all momentum in the game and allowed Iowa to score three goals on that one infraction. If we were able to avoid that seven minute penalty, it could have been a much different game.”
“It was a disappointing game,” Serpico said. “We lost it all on our own. The second things started going downhill, everything went downhill fast.”
The season had some struggles that the Huskies had to overcome.
“It was an up and down season with a lot of injuries that seemed to stall our momentum throughout many parts of the season,” Rinaldo said. “I’m proud of the way our guys battled all season and I’m grateful for all of their hard work. We are graduating a great group of seniors that have played an instrumental role in the growth of this program the past four years.”
The Huskies that will be graduating in May include Serpico, Rucinski, forwards Nick Leon, Anthony Ricciardi and Nick Gorczyca and defensemen Ron Coletta and Troy Heurlin.