By Kim Wrona
2/5/16 – DeKalb, IL | The DII Huskies hosted McKendree University on January 29 and 30 at Leafs Ice Centre in West Dundee. The teams split the two games in the series.
Friday’s game featured a first period with a lot of back-and-forth scoring. The visitors got on the board first in the contest as they capitalized on a rebound just past the two minute mark of the game. 1:04 later, the Huskies answered back as senior forward Justin Rucinski sent a shot into the back of the net from below the right hashmarks. The goal was the captain’s 25th of the season.
Near the six minute mark of the period, the Bearcats took the lead back as junior goaltender JoJo Durrbeck was beat glove side. A minute and a half later, sophomore forward Matthew Gould scored his sixth goal of the year to tie the game up at two.
The Bearcats scored once again with 1:46 left in the first, but the Huskies were quick to answer back. Gould scored his second of the game and seventh of the season from out in front to tie the game up with 56.7 seconds left in the frame.
The Bearcats scored the next tally once again, but it came with 2:31 left in the second period. McKendree scored while on a power play with 45.4 seconds left in the middle frame to make the score 5-3 in the visiting team’s favor.
Sophomore goaltender Jake Leon played in the third period for the Huskies, but the netminder change couldn’t light a fire under the NIU offense.
About four and a half minutes into final frame, McKendree buried another power play goal to increase the team’s lead to 6-3. Just over a minute later, a shot slid by Leon’s right pad to make the McKendree lead 7-3.
With 2:37 left in regulation, McKendree added an additional power play goal with a shot from the point to make it 8-3. The Huskies got one back on the power play as Rucinski scored his second of the game and 26th goal of the year with 1:07 left in regulation to make the final score 8-4 Bearcats.
Durrbeck made 21 saves on 26 shots throughout two periods and Leon made 15 saves on 18 shots in the final frame. NIU outshot McKendree by a 46-44 margin. The Bearcats went 3-5 on the power play and the Huskies went 1-4 on the man advantage.
On Saturday afternoon, the Huskies celebrated the seniors’ last home game of their collegiate careers. The seniors that were honored were Rucinski, forwards Nick Leon, Joe Serpico, Anthony Ricciardi and Nick Gorczyca and defensemen Ron Coletta and Troy Heurlin.
Saturday’s contest went much better for the Huskies than Friday’s did, despite the fact that the Bearcats jumped out to an early lead. NIU was able to tie the game up at one with 56.1 seconds left in the opening frame as Nick Leon deflected in a puck out in front of the net for his 30th goal of the year.
Senior forward Max Finley tallied his first goal of the season as he tallied off of a feed from Rucinski in the second period.
Rucinski continued to set people up in the middle frame as Serpico buried one from out in front with 9:05 left in the second. The tally was his second goal of the year and it put the Huskies up 3-1. With 1:01 left in the second, the Bearcats cut their deficit to one.
Heurlin restored the NIU lead with his 13th goal of the season with 9:10 to go in regulation. With 5:41 left, Serpico set up Ricciardi for his fifth goal of the season to put NIU up by a score of 5-2, which is how the final stood as the Huskies took the victory.
Sophomore goaltender Nick Bove made 42 saves on 44 shots in the contest. McKendree outshot NIU by a margin of 44-38. The Huskies didn’t score on any of their seven power plays while the Bearcats didn’t score on their two man advantages.
The Huskies will finish out the 2015-16 regular season with two road games in Missouri. At 5:45 p.m. on February 6 and at 3:45 p.m. on February 7, the Huskies and Saint Louis University will face-off for two MACHA Conference games at Webster Groves Ice Arena in Webster Groves, MO.