9/24/14 – DeKalb, IL | The DII Huskies opened their regular season on Friday and Saturday against the Missouri State Ice Bears at Fox Valley Ice Arena in Geneva. Unfortunately for the Huskies, they dropped both games by scores of 6-0 and 4-0 respectively.
After 20 minutes on Friday night, the Huskies were only down by 1 goal, but Missouri State’s offense came alive during the second period.
The Ice Bears added 5 goals to their lead during the sandwich stanza, including 1 shorthanded tally. 4 of the markers came before the halfway point of the period.
One of the Huskies better chances to get on the board came just after the 8 minute mark of the second period. Senior forward Nick Leon found junior forward Anthony Ricciardi out in front of the Missouri State crease and Ricciardi tipped the pass on net, but was shut down by the Ice Bears’ netminder.
Friday’s game had a chippy feel to it from the get-go, but it really escalated in the third period.
With 7:28 to go in the final frame, senior goaltender Alex Hare was tossed from the game after he was involved in a scrum in the NIU zone, which resulted in a Missouri State 2 man advantage; freshman goaltender Jake Leon replaced Hare in net for the remainder of the game.
The Huskies and Ice Bears traded a few more penalties before the game ended 6-0 in the visitors’ favor.
““Missouri State is a very talented team and they are not afraid to mix it up physically,” head coach Chuck Rinaldo said. “I think the frustration levels were high for our guys on Friday and Missouri State recognized that and kept getting under our skin. Our guys need to show more composure and professionalism when things aren't going our way. I think we did better on Saturday but there were still a few times where we went a little too far beyond the whistle.”
Jake Leon received the start in net for Saturday’s game with freshman goaltender Nick Bove serving as back-up.
“Jake Leon has done a great job so far and has showed great composure stepping in to very high pressure situations,” Rinaldo said. “He deserved the start on Saturday and lived up to the expectations. It's nice to have good depth at the goaltending position and it's starting to turn in to a competition for playing time between Hare, Leon and Bove.”
Much like Friday’s game, Missouri State got out to a 1-0 lead during the first period of play.
The Huskies got themselves into penalty trouble during the middle frame. They gave up 4 power plays to the Ice Bears; the visitors capitalized on one of the chances with a one-timer from the right circle to make the score 2-0.
Even though the Huskies were able to kill off two 5-on-3 power plays for Missouri State during the second period, the Ice Bears added an even strength goal to put them up 3-0 going into period no. 3.
Nick Leon had a chance to get NIU on the board with just under 12 minutes to go in the final frame as he found himself on a shorthanded breakaway, but his shot was stopped by the Ice Bears’ goaltender.
Missouri State tallied with less than a minute to go in another penalty-laden period to make the final score 4-0.
“We came up against some very good goalies this weekend but there is still no excuse to put up a goose egg on the board for the entire weekend,” Rinaldo said. “We need to change our mentality and shoot to score rather than shoot to simply get a puck to the net. We also need to be stronger around the net and be prepared to pay the price physically to win the battles for rebounds. As soon as we get one or two, our confidence should start to build after that.”
Despite being shutout, there were some positives to take out of the weekend for NIU.
“I think we settled in to our systems a little better this weekend,” Rinaldo said. “We still have some teaching and adjusting to do, but when things were going well for us, we were able to create good chances and establish a solid attack against a very deep and talented team. “
The Huskies’ focus now turns to this weekend as they travel up to Mt. Pleasant, MI to take on Central Michigan University.
“We need to play 3 full periods and score a lot of goals to take the pressure off of our goalies and defensemen,” Rinaldo said. “Central Michigan is another team that will bring a lot of offensive threats and if we fall behind quickly on the road it could be tough for us to battle our way back. If we stay steady with our attack and out work our opponent with no let downs, we will win both games. “
The puck will drop at 8 p.m. on Friday at Isabella Community Events Arena for the first match-up of the weekend and at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday for the final contest of the weekend between these two teams.