By Kim Wrona
1/27/16 – DeKalb, IL | The DII Huskies hosted the University of Iowa on January 22 and 23 at Leafs Ice Centre in West Dundee and the home squad was victorious in both contests.
The Huskies dominated the scoreboard in the first period of Friday’s tilt. Sophomore defenseman Tommy Turner tallied at the 10:14 mark of the opening frame with a breakaway goal. The marker was Turner’s second of the 2015-16 season.
With 5:14 left in the first period, senior forward and team captain Justin Rucinski sent a shot from the slot past the Hawkeyes’ netminder for his 23rd tally of the season and to put NIU up 2-0. Less than a minute later, sophomore forward Matthew Gould added his third goal of the season to put the Huskies up by a field goal.
Gould struck once more in the first period. With 56.9 seconds left, he put home a rebound from right out in front of the net for his fourth goal of the year.
The Hawkeyes got on the board near the halfway point of the second period as a shot beat sophomore goaltender Jake Leon over the right shoulder.
The NIU power play lit the lamp with six minutes remaining in the middle frame. Senior forward Joe Serpico tallied his first goal of the year to put NIU up 5-1.
Senior forward Nick Leon netted his 27th goal of the season at the 5:14 mark of the third period. With 13.4 seconds remaining in regulation, senior defenseman Ron Coletta sent a point shot towards the net that went top shelf on the Iowa netminder to put the Huskies up by six.
Iowa tallied with 1.4 seconds to go, but the Huskies claimed the victory by a score of 7-2.
Jake Leon made 39 saves on 41 shots in the contest. The Hawkeyes outshot the Huskies by a 41-30 margin. The Huskies tallied on one of their four power plays and Iowa did not convert on any of its five man advantages.
“Friday was the best first period we’ve played all year,” head coach Chuck Rinaldo said. “It was good to see that we could come out of the gates so quickly against a solid team like Iowa. It would have been nice if we kept the full momentum going in the second period. But even with the slight slump in the second period, we still managed to play a solid game.”
The Huskies got out to a fast start on Saturday afternoon against the Hawkeyes. 35 seconds in, Gould tallied his fifth goal of the season to give NIU the early lead. Six minutes later, freshman forward Jordan Niedziela netted his third goal of the season to put NIU up by two.
Nick Leon tallied at the 11:19 mark of the opening frame to make the score 3-0 in NIU’s favor. Iowa tallied 15 seconds later to cut the gap to two again.
Leon netted his second of the period and his 29th goal of the season before the stanza was over to restore the NIU three goal lead.
The Hawkeyes opened up the second period scoring with a tally 2:15 into the period. The back-and-forth scoring continued as Rucinski put the Huskies back up by three just over three minutes later. The marker was the captain’s 24th on the year.
Before the middle frame concluded, Iowa tallied once more to cut NIU’s lead to 5-3.
Senior defenseman Troy Heurlin netted a power play goal early in the third period for his 12th goal of the season. Less than a minute later, Iowa tallied to make the score 6-4, but that was how the score remained for the rest of the game as the Huskies took the victory and swept the weekend.
Jake Leon made 25 saves on 29 shots in the contest. The Hawkeyes outshot the Huskies by a margin of 29-28. NIU went 1-6 on the power play and Iowa went 0-5 on the man advantage.
“Saturday was much tighter than Friday, which was expected,” Rinaldo said. “We did a good job at fending off their offensive flurries and held our ground in the third period. Saturday’s game had a playoff atmosphere and tempo. It was good to see that we were able to come out on top.”
The Huskies will play their final home games of the season next weekend as they take on McKendree University.
“McKendree is going to be a tough team,” Rinaldo said. “They are a very good DIII program that will be moving up to DII next season. We will need to stick to our systems and lock down their high powered offense.”
The Huskies and the Bearcats will face-off at 7:30 p.m. on January 29 and at 3 p.m. on January 30 at Leafs Ice Centre.