By Kim Wrona
12/10/15 – DeKalb, IL | The DII Huskies hosted DePaul University at Leafs Ice Centre on December 4 and 5. The Huskies were looking for redemption after falling to the Blue Demons by a score of 5-3 on November 15 at the Robert Morris University Showcase.
The first five minutes of Friday night’s contest was a fairly even affair as both team had good starts, but DePaul got on the board first at the 5:19 mark of the period.
The Huskies regrouped and were able to tie the game up at the 12 minute mark of the frame as sophomore forward Eric Svejda sent a shot from the right circle on a 2-on-1 rush into the back of the net.
Exactly four minutes later, senior forward Anthony Ricciardi scored from the slot on a delayed penalty sequence to give NIU its first lead of the game. Svejda added to the Huskies’ lead as he tallied while on a two man advantage to make the score 3-1 in NIU’s favor.
The Blue Demons dominated the scoreboard in the second period as they scored twice to tie the game up at three. The visitors also had a quick start to the third period as they netted a goal that went low glove side on junior goaltender JoJo Durrbeck just 1:13 into the frame to make it 4-3 DePaul.
Despite being down a goal, the Huskies stormed back later in the period. Senior defenseman Ron Coletta fired a shot on net just past the five minute mark of the period that trickled past the DePaul netminder to tie the game up at four.
With just over seven minutes remaining in regulation, Svejda completed his hat trick bid to give the Huskies a 5-4 lead. The marker was Svejda’s 17th goal of the season.
With 4:09 left in the game, senior forward and team captain Justin Rucinski drew a penalty shot and converted on it to give the Huskies a 6-4 lead, which stood as the final score.
Durrbeck made 38 saves on 42 shots in the contest. DePaul outshot NIU by a 42-36 margin. The Huskies went 1-9 on the power play and killed off all four of DePaul’s attempts on the man advantage.
“We were on a seven game losing streak so I think we were a little nervous to get right into the game,” Durrbeck said. “We took a little bit to get into the game, but once we got going, we scored three to end the first period. In the second period, we took some penalties and let them back into the game. It was tied 3-3 going into the third. But at the start of the third, we gave up another early goal. A lot of times this year, we’ll do that and we’ll give up and we’ll let it set us back. But we did a really good job of pushing and moving forward. We came back and got three straight goals and won the game 6-4.”
“It was nice having our full team back,” Svejda said. “The first time we played DePaul, they only played half our team since almost half of our team when we played them in the Robert Morris Showcase was injured. … We got off to a decent start. We matched their speed and eventually we wore them down. We kept on capitalizing on all of their mistakes.”
Saturday’s contest started off with a special moment for the Huskies as senior forward Anthony Contillo was honored as he is graduating from the university this semester.
The Huskies then started the game off on the right foot as freshman forward David Madrigal scored from the right circle while on a power play just 2:53 into the contest.
The Huskies added to their lead in the second period as Rucinski deflected in a shot by Svejda 1:13 into the frame. Despite the quick start to the period, the Blue Demons scored three straight goals to take a 3-2 lead; the third goal of the period for them was a shorthanded goal.
The Huskies tied the game back up at three at the six minute mark of the final frame with a beautiful shot by freshman forward Jordan Niedziela that picked the blocker side corner on the DePaul netminder.
Durrbeck kept the game tied down the stretch as he made a few big saves on the Blue Demons to send the game into overtime. Senior forward Nick Leon sealed the deal in the extra frame for the Huskies as he also picked a corner with a beauty of a shot to give NIU a 4-3 victory.
Durrbeck made 48 saves on 51 shots in the game. The Blue Demons outshot the Huskies by a margin of 51-45. The Huskies scored on one of their eight power plays and killed off all five of DePaul’s man advantages.
“We got the start we wanted,” Durrbeck said. “But even though we got the early goal, we let them back into the game. We went into the third down 3-2. It was a little different situation [than Friday]. Little Nedzy had a great shot from the sideboards [to tie the game]. It was a perfect shot, perfectly placed. We were able to fight off some of their attack. They had a couple good rushes and we were able to stay tied the whole [period]. We went into overtime and Leon just had a beautiful shot, and just like Neds, beat him with a perfect shot. [The game] was just a blast to be a part of, a big win for us and a big weekend overall.”
“Saturday’s game was tighter, which I was expecting because they’re ranked fifth in the region and we’re ranked twelfth,” Svejda said. “They were going to be a little more careful and not take as many risks as they did on Friday. Saturday wasn’t as hard-hitting because they were trying to keep up with most of us. We went to OT and were a little worried because OT hasn’t been the greatest for our team. Once we scored, it was nice to know that we swept the weekend against a top-five ranked team. It will help us out for rankings.”
The Huskies will finish out the 2015 portion of the 2015-16 season on December 11 and 12 as they take on Robert Morris University-Maroon.
“I think we have to do the same thing we did last weekend,” Svejda said. “We just have to dump the puck in deep, just go grind them out. … [We have to] just take away their home ice advantage.”
“We have to bring the same mentality,” Durrbeck said. “We played a really good weekend. We had some breakdowns and I think we have to eliminate those breakdowns. Overall, there were a lot of positives to take from this weekend. I think we have to do a lot of the same going into this weekend [against RMU]. Another big four points are on the line.”
Friday’s contest against the Eagles is slated to begin at 9 p.m. and Saturday’s game is set to start at 8:30 p.m. at The Edge in Bensenville.