By Kim Wrona
2/5/15 – DeKalb, IL | The DII Huskies hosted St. Mary’s University on January 30 and 31 at Leafs Ice Centre. The Huskies were able to post 2 victories on the weekend in their final homestand in West Dundee of the 2014-15 season.
St. Mary’s got on the board first during Friday’s contest just after the 3 minute mark of the first period. The Huskies were quick to answer as senior forward Joe Serpico fired a shot past the St. Mary’s goaltender from close range to tie the game up at 1 just over a minute later.
The Huskies then took their first lead of the game as junior defenseman Troy Heurlin’s shot from the high slot found the back of the net with 5:28 left in the opening frame.
Senior forward Justin Rucinski gave NIU a 2 goal lead with 11:24 remaining in the second period with his 38th goal of the season. But St. Mary’s was able to close its gap to 1 just about 2 minutes later.
Senior defenseman Brian Pounds then restored the Huskies’ 2 goal lead at the 14:40 mark of the sandwich stanza to make it 4-2 NIU.
Freshman forward Eric Svejda added a power play goal at 3:25 of the third period to make the score 5-2, which is how the final stood. Freshman goaltender Nick Bove made 31 saves on 33 shots for NIU in the contest.
“I thought we played pretty well overall,” Bove said. “We got out there and jumped on them early. The defense was definitely pretty good. I thought the offense got rolling a little bit. [There were] weird patterns. We hit them early and then kind of started falling back and then hit them again late, so it was an interesting game.”
“We had some ups and downs, but overall, we were the deeper team,” head coach Chuck Rinaldo said. “It just took us a while to kind of establish ourselves. But we had a lot of opportunities, a lot of shots on goal. I think the biggest thing is if we can bury more pucks, I think we’ll make our lives a little easier.”
Like Friday’s game, St. Mary’s scored the first goal of the tilt on Saturday with 5:35 remaining in the opening period. Also like the previous day, the Huskies quickly responded. Senior forward Mark Greenberg deflected a puck into the back of the net to tie the game up at 1 less than a minute later.
With 25 seconds left in the period, Rucinski was able to tack on a marker to give NIU a 2-1 lead.
At the 9:25 mark of the second period, junior forward Nick Leon tallied while the Huskies were on a power play to give the home squad a 3-1 lead. About 3 minutes later, sophomore defenseman LJ Scimeca scored with a shot from the right circle to give the Huskies a 3 goal lead.
Serpico sent a nice shot past the visiting goaltender with 13:45 to go in regulation to make the score 5-1 NIU, but St. Mary’s was able to tally once more with 11:05 remaining to bring the score to 5-2.
Serpico was then able to add an empty net goal with 21 seconds left to make the final score 6-2. Bove made 37 saves on 39 shots.
“Saturday I definitely thought we had a better team effort,” Bove said. “Everybody was playing well together. The defensemen were clearing the net in front of me so I could see the shots. The offense was producing really well; the passing was on point. [We] saw a lot of stuff from younger guys that haven’t gotten much ice time; that’s looking pretty promising.”
“Saturday we came out with more confidence knowing that we should just play our systems and beat them with our depth,” Rinaldo said. “I think we had control of most of the game. [We] got in trouble with a few penalties here and there, but once again, it’s capitalizing on the offensive opportunities. I feel like we’re getting them, but we’re not taking advantage. I think this weekend is going to be a big change for us as far as we might have some tighter games where if we don’t take advantage of those opportunities, it might be more of a battle.”
The Huskies will finish the regular season by hosting the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire at Fox Valley Ice Arena in Geneva on February 6 and 7.
“We don’t know much about them except that they’re winning a lot of games,” Rinaldo said. “They haven’t played many ranked teams, if any, but that doesn’t always say much. They definitely have guys that can put points on the board. Their goalies have been doing the job and they’re ranked 14th in the region and playing a team like us, all they need is maybe even a split with us and they could jump up to make regionals. It’s a big weekend for them so they’re going to bring their best and we got to come ready with a playoff mentality.”
“For Wisconsin this weekend, I think once again we just have to focus on our team play: no individual [efforts], no trying to cut through the zone all by yourself,” Bove said. “I think overall we’re a pretty strong team. I think all the pieces are there; it’s just really buying into the systems and deciding that we want to get it done as a team rather than individually, which we can do pretty easily.”
Friday’s contest is slated to begin at 9 p.m. and Saturday’s tilt is set to start at 4 p.m.