By Kim Wrona
10/22/14 – DeKalb, IL | The DII Huskies were at Leafs Ice Centre for the first time during the 2014-15 season on Friday and Saturday as they hosted Eastern Illinois University.
The lamp was lit early and often throughout the weekend as NIU defeated EIU 13-4 on Friday and 15-2 on Saturday.
The offense was up and running by the 4:31 mark of the first period on Friday as freshman forward Patrick Wrobel put a shot home from the left circle to give NIU a 1-0 lead.
EIU tied the game up at the 9:03 mark with a tally from junior forward Adam Story, but 26 seconds later, senior forward Justin Rucinski sent a wicked shot over the glove of the EIU goaltender to give the Huskies the lead right back.
Junior forward Max Finley put the Huskies up 3-1 as he flipped in the puck on a second chance at the 11:22 mark of the period. Rucinski added his second of the night at 13:01 and, 25 seconds after, junior forward John Luciana scored on a rebound to make it 5-1 NIU. Sophomore forward Jake Jauch scored on a 2-on-1 rush with freshman forward Dakota Slone to make it 6-1.
Story scored EIU’s second goal of the game 47 seconds into the second period to bring EIU within 4 and to give the visitors some momentum. Senior forward Nick Leon gave the Huskies their 5 goal lead back around the 4 minute mark of the middle frame, but EIU answered with 2 tallies at the 10:29 and 12:11 marks to make the score 7-4.
The Huskies regained their stronghold on the game after EIU’s 2 consecutive goals. Leon found himself on a shorthanded breakaway late in the sandwich stanza and put the puck in the back of the net to make it 8-4.
In the third period, it was all Huskies all the time as Rucinski scored 3 more times to bring his game total to 5 and freshman forward Eric Svejda and Slone also scored to make the final 13-4. NIU also outshot EIU 91-31 on Friday.
“Overall, we played pretty well as a team,” senior forward Mark Greenberg said. “We had a couple of defensive breakdowns, that’s why they had those 4 goals, but we bounced back pretty quick and shut them out and put them away pretty quick. So, overall, it was a successful night.”
“I thought we played pretty sound,” freshman goaltender Nick Bove said. “Offense was clearly a big factor. Defense didn’t look too bad. We gave up a few interesting goals there, but we kept our [composure] overall.”
On Saturday, the Huskies picked up right where they left off. 1:18 into the contest, junior forward Anthony Ricciardi gave NIU a 1-0 lead. Rucinski also added a hat trick in the opening frame while junior forward Brandon Niedziela (shorthanded) and freshman forward Matthew Gould tallied to give the Huskies a 6-0 lead after the first 20 minutes.
Story tallied for EIU to break Bove’s attempt at a shutout in his first career start for the Huskies at the 48 second mark of the second period.
The Huskies put the pedal to the metal offensively during the second as they tallied 7 times. Rucinski added 2 more goals to bring his game total to 5 and his weekend total to 10. Freshman defenseman Russell Weber, Finley, Svejda, Luciana and Greenberg added goals to give NIU a 13-1 lead going into the final frame.
The first goal of the third period didn’t come until the 10:05 mark when Greenberg added his second tally of the game. Senior forward Joe Serpico also scored to give the Huskies a 15-1 lead with 1:41 left in the contest, but EIU tallied once more to make the final score 15-2. The Huskies outshot EIU 63-28 during Saturday’s contest.
“The offense was rolling pretty well this weekend,” Svejda said. “It’s nice to see not just the first line scoring; everyone was starting to get points this weekend. We had to grab lots of pucks out of the net because it was about half of our team’s first goals of the season. Overall, as a group, I think we were doing well. I mean, defense, we had a couple of let downs on Friday but we corrected that. And Saturday we only allowed them to get 2 goals so I guess that’s a positive.”
“I thought Saturday night’s game we played a lot better as a team,” Greenberg said. “We scored more goals so we were just putting them away. I thought Bove played a great game for having his first game out there. I know there’s probably some nerves there and he played extremely well and a lot of our rookies scored, too. So that was really nice: seeing people across the board score, from forwards to defensemen and stuff like that. Overall, a great weekend.”
“I was excited to get in,” Bove said about his first start. “I had a lot of help from the boys, had some solid defense. I think they told me I had 28 shots on net and saved 26, so it was a solid entrance.”
The Huskies’ next set of games are on Friday, October 24 and Saturday, October 25. NIU will travel up to St. Paul, MN to take on St. Thomas University.
“I did a little bit of scouting out on St. Thomas,” Bove said. “I saw they had 2 pretty hard losses against Central Michigan, who we actually happened to get a victory against. I think again, we have to get the offense rolling quickly, have some solid defense. I don’t know if I’m going to be playing this weekend or not, but we got 2 strong goalies in [freshman Jake] Leon and [senior Alex] Hare so we know they’ll be backstopping the team pretty well.”
“We have to stick to the basics: chip the puck in deep and just go grind it out and get some goals,” Svejda said. “Hopefully our defense and our goalies will be solid so offense can bail out the defense and defense can bail out the offense. So, I’m guessing those will be most of our keys this weekend: to keep it simple.”
“We got to have some good, tough practices this week here,” Greenberg said. “We got to dig deep and really have high intensity practices here and bring in the energy we had this past weekend into this next weekend and just take it to them right away, not let them get any edge on us and just shut them out. A sweep this weekend would be really nice.”
Friday’s game is slated to begin at 7 p.m. and Saturday’s game is set for 7:30 p.m. Both contests will be held at Highland Arena.