By Kim Wrona
10/1/15 – DeKalb, IL| The DII Huskies split their first set of home games on the 2015-16 season with the University of Illinois on September 25 and 26.
The offense fired on all cylinders throughout the course of the weekend for the Huskies as they scored a combined 17 goals on Friday and Saturday at Leafs Ice Centre in West Dundee.
11 of those markers were scored on Friday night as the Huskies defeated the Illini by a score of 11-4.
The Huskies got the offense rolling 12 seconds into the game as senior forward Nick Leon tallied to put the home team up 1-0. Senior forward Justin Rucinski scored twice in the opening 20 minutes while senior defenseman Troy Heurlin and sophomore forward Eric Svejda also scored to give NIU a 5-1 lead going into the second period.
Svejda and freshman forward David Madrigal tallied during the middle frame to make the score 7-1 in the Huskies’ favor.
U of I tacked on a couple of goals in the third period, but the Huskies added four more from Madrigal, Rucinski, junior forward Brandon Niedziela and senior forward Nick Gorczyca to seal the victory. Sophomore goaltender Jake Leon made 31 saves on 35 shots in the contest.
“We had a lot of fans there so we wanted to come out for the opener and prove what we could do,” senior forward Joe Serpico said. “I think we got off to a good start in the first period; obviously 12 seconds in, the first line buried one. Then we kind of just kept rolling. We got a lot of power play opportunities so it was nice to see the power play come in and finally score some goals; we didn’t really do that on the power play last weekend so that was nice. It was kind of just consistent all the way through.”
“We played really well,” junior defenseman Bryan Peterson said. “We put up a lot of points early, which helped us a lot. … But we were still kind of sloppy that game. Our passes were a little off, but it was a pretty good game overall.”
“Friday I think we played really, really well,” sophomore defenseman Tommy Turner said. “Obviously, we came out of the gate hard and we didn’t let up all game. You can obviously tell by the consistent scoring. 5-1 after the first is a huge way to come out and a huge way to set the tone.”
“It felt good to get off to a quick start,” head coach Chuck Rinaldo said. “We had a good crowd that allowed us to jump on it and get a lot of momentum. We were able to put a lot of goals in the net so it shows promise with our offensive ability. We still have some work to do overall. But getting that first win at home is key.”
The Huskies got their offense going equally as fast on Saturday. 14 seconds into the first period, Rucinski gave the home squad a 1-0 lead. He scored again later on in the frame while Nick Leon (twice) and Madrigal added markers as well. After 20 minutes, the Huskies had a 5-2 lead over the Illini.
Illinois scored twice after the halfway mark of the second period to cut NIU’s lead to 5-4. Madrigal scored his second of the game to restore a two goal lead for the Huskies.
The Huskies got into penalty trouble during the third period. After the Illini scored to cut the lead to one again, they continued to gain momentum as they scored twice on a two man advantage to tie the game and take the lead. The Huskies tried to mount a comeback, but weren’t able to do so and gave up an empty net goal in the final seconds of the game to make the final score 8-6 in the Illini’s favor.
Sophomore goaltender Nick Bove started the game and made 38 saves on 45 shots. Junior goaltender JoJo Durrbeck came into the game in relief of Bove with 8:16 remaining in regulation; he stopped all six shots he faced.
“Discipline was our biggest breakdown,” Rinaldo said. “We got comfortable and complacent and let them climb back into the game. Once they started to make waves, we started getting silly penalties. We had way, way too many dumb penalties in the third period that gave them more momentum and we couldn’t recover from it.”
“We just took way too many penalties,” Peterson said. “We played the third period mostly down a guy or two; that’s hard on any team and it’s hard on goalies especially.”=
“We weren’t backchecking,” Serpico said. “We weren’t forechecking. We were looking for those homerun breakaways, 2-on-1’s, 3-on-2’s. … It just became lazy hockey and then we started giving up some goals. Once we got back to even, we just couldn’t stop them from the roll they were on.”
The Huskies are looking forward to putting Saturday’s game behind them and moving onto their upcoming contests against Lewis University.
“Discipline. We have to stay out of the box,” Turner said about the keys to the weekend. “We were great on the power play, but being on the penalty kill obviously does not help our case and we were in the box an awful lot [this] Saturday.”
“We just have to make sure we don’t do what we did on this Saturday’s game,” Serpico said. “We can’t come in thinking we’re just going to beat them. … We just have to make sure that we come ready to play.”
“We have to kind of buckle down and make better passes, make better decisions,” Peterson said. “We have to work on the breakout and play in our own zone because it was very sloppy on Saturday.”
“Lewis is going to be a lot like Illinois,” Rinaldo said. “We need to get on them fast. They’re going to have a very good first line that knows how to score goals, so neutralize them on the defensive side and make sure we capitalize on our opportunities.”
The Huskies will host Lewis University at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, October 2 and at 3 p.m. on Saturday, October 3 at Leafs Ice Centre.