By Kim Wrona
11/19/14 – DeKalb, IL | The DII Huskies had a busy weekend as they played 3 games in 3 days at the Robert Morris University Showcase at The Edge in Bensenville. NIU faced off against RMU Maroon, Illinois State University and DePaul University on each day respectively.
Despite going down to RMU Maroon 1-0 early in Friday’s game, the Huskies bounced back with goals from senior forwards Justin Rucinski and Joe Serpico, junior forward Nick Leon and freshman forward Dakota Slone en route to a 4-1 victory to start the weekend. Freshman goaltender Jake Leon made 28 saves as he backstopped the Huskies to the win.
“I thought it was a pretty sloppy game,” Jake Leon said. “But we played pretty good; we fought through the struggle and kept it even through the second period and then finished them off in the third. We put the nail in the coffin with the fourth goal.”
“We scored a couple quick goals and just kept rolling,” Slone said. “We took the lead, and then kept it. It set the tone for the upcoming games.”
The first period on Saturday against ISU was a scoreless affair and it wasn’t until the 10 minute mark of the second period that either team got on the board. NIU was the one to break the scoreless tie as senior forward Mark Greenberg put one by the ISU netminder.
ISU scored less than 3 minutes later to tie the game and then scored 40 seconds into the third period to take a 2-1 lead. Greenberg answered again for NIU to tie the game at 2 and send it into overtime. Unfortunately for the Huskies, ISU scored with 1:34 left in the extra frame to take the game 3-2. Senior goaltender Alex Hare made 35 saves in the overtime loss.
“I thought it was a really good game,” Leon said. “We’re pretty even teams. We have pretty much identical teams when you think about it. It sets a good tone with the [upcoming] weekend; [we’re] coming ready with a vengeance with losing in overtime. That’s never fun.”
“We tied both periods, first and second,” Slone said. “They’re our rivals so it was a big game. We pretty much matched them the whole time. Played them and beat them at their game. We lost in overtime, but we still have the momentum going into next weekend.”
Sunday’s game against DePaul didn’t start off well on the scoresheet for the Huskies. They went into the second period down 2-0. Freshman forward Eric Svejda scored during the sandwich stanza to cut the DePaul lead to 1 and Greenberg tallied a power play goal in the third period to tie the game at 2. Rucinski scored later in the third to give NIU a 3-2 lead and that stood as the final score. Freshman goaltender Nick Bove made 19 saves in the win.
“I thought it was a pretty fun game to watch,” Leon said. “They’re a big physical team and it was nice to see us fight through, especially with going down early against them. It was good not losing to a ranked team because that would definitely hurt.”
“I think we played really well there,” freshman defenseman Russell Weber said. “I think at the beginning we let in a few easy goals, but we came back pretty strong.”
“First period we came out completely flat after a tiring weekend,” Slone said. “We were down 2 goals in the first period, but we kept calm and came back in the third period.”
The Huskies now turn their attention to taking on ISU in a 2 game series on November 21 and 22 at Leafs Ice Centre in West Dundee.
“I think ISU is a very big and fast team and I think we just have to keep up with them and play at our fastest,” Weber said. “We have to play more physical. We have to try to not let them get behind us like they did before.”
“[We have to] stick to what we’re good at and play just simple hockey,” Leon said. “Chipping pucks out of the zone, getting deep and … get them in the box and stay on the power play and try to keep our mouths shut.”
“We pretty much just [have to] play our game,” Slone said. “Make sure that no one gets behind us and don’t ever take off the gas pedal. If they score on us, don’t let it get to our heads and just keep going.”
Friday’s game is slated to begin at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday’s puck drop is set for 3 p.m.