By Kim Wrona
9/17/13–DeKalb, IL Late Saturday afternoon, the D2 Huskies made the trek out to Darien Sportsplex in Darien, IL for their lone preseason game against the University of Illinois’ D1 team. Junior goaltender Alex Hare got the start in between the pipes for NIU and sophomore Joe Olen was starting for the Illini.
Sophomore forward John Olen put the Illini in the lead with the first goal of the contest just past the six minute mark of the first period. 33 seconds later, U of I potted another one to make it 2-0. Freshman forward Danny Zalesky scored to cut NIU’s deficit to one goal at 8:36 of the first period. The Illini regained their two goal lead with 5:35 remaining in the period with a marker from sophomore forward Danny Kerr as he fired the puck over Hare’s right pad. Hare kept NIU within reach late in the period with a few nice saves on good U of I scoring chances.
As a whole, the game was played with an edge to it, but the second period was particularly on the chippy side. The after-the-whistle pushing and shoving increased and both teams took exception to that.
"The chippiness of the game was not too much of a surprise,” head coach Chuck Rinaldo said. “Although we are in two different divisions, there was a lot of motivation for both sides to make some big statements. We were obviously very motivated to beat U of I which would have been a huge accomplishment for us and the U of I team showed they were not going to take us lightly.”
During the second period, U of I scored two more times within the first six and a half minutes. The Huskies wouldn’t go down easily though. While NIU was on an extended power play, junior forward Justin Rucinski tallied with 7:30 remaining in the frame to make it 5-2. U of I’s third goal of the period came less than three minutes later on the same power play as they picked up a shorthanded goal to give them a four goal lead.
U of I had an early power play in the final frame and they made it count as they added to their lead to make it 7-2. 38 seconds later, senior forward Nick Leon sent a sick shot past Joe Olen to bring the Huskies back within four. The Illini extended their lead to six goals before Leon roofed his second tally of the game with 5:36 left to make it 9-4, which was the final.
This preseason game allowed the team to spot areas that need to be worked on in preparation for the regular season opener on Friday night.
“Everything still needs some work at this point but the key is that we have a solid foundation in place and that is the key to our growth and success,” Rinaldo said. “If I had to choose one particular aspect of our game that we will need to improve on before next weekend, it would be our defensive zone. We need to stay disciplined and have a better sense of urgency. We were a little slow to react to certain situations against U of I and that created a lot of chaos for us.”
Overall, there were many positives to take away from the game, according to Rinaldo.
“We discovered that we have good depth to our line up and every player maintained a very hard working attitude the entire game no matter what type of challenges came their way,” he said. “With this combination of depth and a good attitude, it should be easy to implement the necessary systems needed to beat a lot of good teams this year.”
- U of I outshot the Huskies 52-25.
- Senior goaltender Nick Bonin replaced Hare in net just before the ten minute mark of the second period.
- The line-up looked something like this on Saturday:
Nick Leon – Justin Rucinski – Rob Bock
Nick Gorczyca –Joe Boris – Mark Greenberg
Anthony Contillo – Nick Remley – Tyler Suckel
Brandyn Maher – Brandon Niedziela – Danny Zalesky
LJ Scimeca – Troy Hickey
Danny Stetzinger – Troy Heurlin
Jake Jauch – Brian Pickett
Friday, September 20 at Missouri State University (regular season opener/MACHA conference game) – 7:00 pm
Saturday, September 21 at Missouri State University (MACHA conference game) – 7:00 pm
Friday, September 20 at Missouri State University (regular season opener) – 9:45 pm
Saturday, September 21 at Missouri State University – 3:00 pm