By Kim Wrona
1/30/15 – DeKalb, IL | The DII Huskies hosted Saint Louis University on January 23 and 24 at Leafs Ice Centre in West Dundee. NIU was able to take the victory in both contests for the weekend sweep.
Just over a minute into Friday’s game, junior forward Nick Leon put NIU up 1-0 with a power play goal off of a rebound. The Huskies made it 2-0 with 2.8 seconds left in the first period as junior defenseman Ron Coletta went high blocker side on the SLU goaltender off of a feed from senior forward Justin Rucinski.
The only scoring in the second period was from SLU. The visitors scored on a power play with a rocket of a shot from the point that got past senior goaltender Alex Hare to make it 2-1 NIU with 4:56 remaining in the frame.
SLU carried its momentum from the second period into the third as the team was able to tie the game up at 2 just 56 seconds into the period.
The Huskies quickly answered back as junior forward Max Finley was able to deflect in a shot from the point while on the power play to give the home squad a 3-2 lead at the 2:35 mark of the final frame.
With just over 12 minutes remaining in regulation, SLU tied the game up as a shot just trickled past Hare.
The Huskies continued their trend of late-period heroics as Rucinski was able to swat home a Leon rebound from the front of the net with 2.3 seconds remaining to give NIU the 4-3 victory on home ice.
“Friday’s game was a little closer than we wanted it to be,” head coach Chuck Rinaldo said. “We were a little sloppy in some parts, but we pulled it together. Obviously, we managed to get that last second goal, which was exciting [and] relieving. But it’s definitely not the way we wanted it to necessarily go. But a win is a win.”
“We came out a little slow and we weren’t really ready to play on Friday night,” Finley said. “We got out to a lead, but once again, we have to learn to stay disciplined and that kind of got us a little bit in the second period. We played a lot better in the third period and started to put some pucks in the back of the net. We were moving the puck really well [and] getting shots. With 2 minutes left, it was still tied up, but I figured something good was going to happen. We kind of had the momentum swing our way in the last 2 minutes and the last shift, we had a good cycle, we got pucks on net and we scored the game winner with 2 seconds left.”
Saturday’s game featured the Huskies, once again, scoring the first goal of the contest. Leon found himself on a breakaway and he sent a backhander over the goaltender to give the Huskies a 1-0 lead.
Finley added to the lead as he scored just before the 2 minute mark of the second period. SLU broke freshman goaltender Jake Leon’s bid at a shutout with 1:22 remaining in the sandwich stanza as the visitors’ closed their deficit to 2-1.
NIU restored its 2 goal lead 12 seconds later as Nick Leon scored his second marker of the contest to make it 3-1.
7:54 into the third period, SLU closed its gap to 1, but the Huskies were able to add some padding to their slim lead later in the period.
Leon was able to complete his hat trick with 1:34 remaining in regulation and Rucinski added a marker 13 seconds later to make the final score 5-2 for NIU.
“Saturday’s game was a little better,” Rinaldo said. “We still were sloppy. We got caught up in some of the penalties, but not as much as we did on Friday. … But Saturday we played more of our regular game. We let a young goalie kind of settle in and get some confidence; we didn’t get to him quick enough. But we were able to run away with it at the end, which was good, which is what we should have done.”
“Saturday’s game we came out a lot better,” Finley said. “We still had a problem with penalties; we definitely still need to work on that. Saturday we played a little bit better and just really similar to Friday’s game.”
The Huskies will now host 2 games against St. Mary’s University on January 30 and 31 at Leafs Ice Centre.
“We just need to work on moving the puck a little bit more on the power play; we worked on that in practice longer this week so we could be a little bit more efficient on the power play,” Finley said. “Our timing, we worked on that again in practice. We need to time our passes and be supportive of whoever has the puck. [If] we do that, we’ll be able to get the puck in deep and keep it simple and just play our game.”
“We got to stay more disciplined, stay out of the box and stick to our systems,” Rinaldo said. “As long as we’re working as a full unit, we’re tough to beat. When guys start to take things upon themselves and do things beyond our systems and get silly penalties, it hurts. But, I think we should be ok. We just got to keep pushing forward.”
Friday’s game is slated to begin at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday’s contest is set for 3 p.m.