DII Huskies split with ISU

DII Huskies split with ISU

By Kim Wrona

11/26/14 – DeKalb, IL  |  The DII Huskies played their final games of November last weekend as they hosted Illinois State University at Leafs Ice Centre in West Dundee.

Friday’s game saw the visitors get out to a 1-0 lead at the 6:35 mark of the opening frame.  The Huskies were able to tie the game in the last 18 seconds of the period as senior forward Joe Serpico put home a rebound from junior forward John Luciana.  The Huskies were seemingly going to take the momentum into the first intermission, but ISU was able to score 8 seconds later to take the lead and the momentum right back.

The second period was a scoreless affair, but the Huskies came out strong in the final frame.  At 6:37 of the third, senior forward Justin Rucinski scored on a 5-on-3 power play to tie the game up at 2. 

The game remained tied at the end of regulation, which sent it into overtime.  NIU and ISU both had power play chances in the extra frame, but neither team was able to convert. 

The game ended up going into a shootout where the amount of shooters wasn’t communicated clearly between the officials and the teams.  The game was called after the third round; the only goal recorded in the shootout came during the final round off of the stick of an ISU player, giving the visitors the win.  Senior goaltender Alex Hare made 38 saves on 40 shots for NIU in the game.

“Friday’s game was a tough loss in the shootout, but I was very proud of the way our guys worked hard and battled the entire game,” head coach Chuck Rinaldo said.  “There was a miscommunication on the shootout rules by the refs and unfortunately it might have affected the outcome.  It's disappointing to have it end the way it did, but picking up a point against a tough ISU team was still a very big deal for us.”

Saturday’s contest started out very similar to Friday’s game.  ISU took a 1-0 lead at the 8:22 mark of the first period, but 1:10 later, junior forward Max Finley was able to tie the game up with a shot that went high blocker side on the ISU goaltender.

The Huskies took a 2-1 lead 33 seconds into the sandwich stanza as junior forward Nick Leon’s one timer found the back of the net while NIU was on a power play.  Finley then added his second of the night just under 8 minutes later to give the Huskies a 2 goal cushion.

With 1:44 left in the period, ISU made it a 1 goal game with a shot from the right half wall that got past Hare.  The Huskies were able to restore their lead with 13 seconds left in the period as Serpico deflected in a shot by junior defenseman Ron Coletta.

The third period featured a lot of penalties, including a time where the teams played 3-on-3 hockey for 54 seconds.  ISU took advantage of one of the NIU penalties and scored while on the power play with a deflection on a shot from the point to make it 4-3 NIU with 11:02 to go in regulation.

The Huskies were able to hang on to the 4-3 lead for the victory; Hare made 44 saves on 47 shots.

Once the final whistle blew, some post-game shenanigans ensued.  The benches cleared and both teams gathered in the NIU zone and some players began brawling.  According to the ACHA’s boxscores, senior defenseman Kevin Schwartz and Luciana were given a 5 minute major and a 10 minute misconduct for fighting and ISU’s Stephen Wrzala and Mason Rosenberg were assessed the same penalties.

“Our guys elevated their play to an even higher level on Saturday and it felt great to get a win in regulation against a very good team,” Rinaldo said.  “The results from this weekend should help us in the MACHA standings and the regional rankings.  The scuffles at the end of the game were unnecessary and it's disappointing to see a weekend of good hockey end on a sour note.  The rivalry between us and ISU seems to be growing every time we play them.  Hopefully we won't have to deal with those types of altercations the next time we play.”

The Huskies now have a weekend off for Thanksgiving before they’re back in action to finish out the fall semester.

“The off-weekend will help us out a lot,” Rinaldo said.  “We have a lot of guys that are pretty banged up and tired at this point and a few extra days off will be a huge help for everyone.  The extra rest will give us a little more energy and jump in our step to battle a very tough SIUE team.”

The Huskies will host Southern Illinois University Edwardsville at Leafs Ice Centre on December 5 and 6.

“SIUE is a very good team with a lot of offensive talent,” Rinaldo said.  “We will need to play at the same level that we did against ISU and be sure we don't allow SIUE to open up the game with their run-and-gun offense.  If we limit their space and lock them down in the neutral zone we should be successful.”

Friday’s contest is slated to begin at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday’s game is set to start at 3 p.m.