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Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

Redbirds rout hockey in I-39 rivalry

Sliwinski, Rascia lead ISU past Huskies
Courtesy NIU Hockey
Freshman forward Robbie Zimmerman carries the puck up the ice during NIU Hockey’s game against Midland University on Oct. 27. Zimmerman scored in the Huskies’ 8-2 loss to Illinois State on Friday. (Courtesy of NIU Hockey)

BLOOMINGTON – The I-39 rivalry didn’t go the way of NIU Hockey (0-13-2, 0-9 MCH) Friday, as the high-powered Illinois State University (10-7, 3-4 MCH) offense blew the Huskies out of Grossinger Motors Arena by a final score of 8-2. 

The Redbird offense was led by junior forwards Joe Rascia and Mike Sliwinski, who each tallied two goals to account for half of ISU’s total offense.  

“I think we played 50 minutes of really good hockey,” assistant coach Jeremy Bower said. “ISU is a good team. They’re ranked for a reason – they beat Jamestown – No. 1 in the conference for a reason. But, I really thought we had a chance tonight, and I still do with the exception of the last 10 minutes.” 

Bower filled in for the still-absent head coach Brad Stoffers.


The Redbirds allowed NIU plenty of chances on the power play, allowing the Huskies six man advantages, including an almost two-minute five-on-three advantage in the third period. 

The Huskies peppered Redbird junior goaltender Brendan Donovan with shots but were unable to find the back of the net on each of their six power plays. 

“We’re looking too much for the perfect play,” freshman forward Walker Smith said. “They’re (ISU) pretty loose on the penalty kill. We just need to get more pucks to the net and get some puck luck.”

After having the recent weekend off of games to figure out new power play units, freshman forward Robbie Zimmerman said Friday’s struggles can be attributed to the new-look power play groups. 

“We switched from one power unit to two more deep units, and I think that we just are still figuring those out,” Zimmerman said. “The (scoring) chances are coming. Once we can get those chances and bear down, we’ll start to bury goals here.” 


Both of the Huskies’ goals, scored by Zimmerman and graduate student forward Rodahn Evans respectively, were created thanks to a strong forecheck on the Redbird defense that led to a turnover and an offensive chance. 

“I really wanted to emphasize the one-two-two (forecheck),” Bower said. “I thought that with ISU’s really aggressive gap on their D that if we could get a guy past them with speed, we would generate a lot of momentum.”

Zimmerman said staying relentless on ISU’s defenders was the key to creating offense against a team that heavily relies on its offense but struggles with defense. 

“We just want one guy in to go like a bloodhound and then the other to stay high and try and read where they’re going,” Zimmerman said. “My goal –  that’s exactly what happened. Marty (senior forward Matt Martin) went in like a banshee, and they passed it away to me, and I scored.”


NIU has a fast turnaround as it sees the Redbirds again Saturday to close out the two-game road series. 

After another tough loss, Smith said the outcome of the game will depend on the Huskies limiting their mistakes. 

“It’s things that we’re kind of doing to ourselves. To be a little bit tighter in front of the net – we’re letting too many high-quality chances,” Smith said. “If we can get those rebounds, second, third chances, I think we can play those guys good and maybe sneak in a win.” 

NIU clashes with ISU at 7 p.m. Saturday at Grossinger Motors Arena in Bloomington. 

The game will be streamed on the ISU Hockey YouTube channel.

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