Five-minute penalty cripples Huskies in hockey’s loss to Illinois State

By Matt Boecker

DeKALB — Hockey was unable to complete the two-game sweep Saturday against Midwest College Hockey rival Illinois State University.

After taking game one on Friday, the Huskies weren’t able to keep their foot on the gas to win consecutive games for the first time this season. NIU struggled getting anything going offensively throughout game. 

Early in period one, sophomore forward Brandon Ledyard got a five-minute game misconduct penalty for spearing. ISU scored only once with its power play, but the Redbirds would score later in the period to take the 2-0 edge heading into the first intermission. Head Coach Mike Rucinski said the early five-minute penalty set the tone for the remainder of the game.

“I think we’re starting to figure out how important the start of the game is,” Rucinski said. “We were all ready to go, and we took a major penalty early in the game, and [the Redbirds] scored off it. They also got 18 shots on goal during the five minute penalty. We never really recovered from that momentum wise, even though they only got one goal on the major.”

In the second period, the Redbirds continued to apply heavy pressure. Through the first 30 or so minutes of play, ISU had 40 shots on goal to NIU’s 10. The Redbirds’ offensive aggression resulted in three more goals, including a short-handed goal.

In the third period, each team scored once. For NIU, it was first-year forward Alex Piotrowski getting a short-handed goal after hustling to kill time off an ISU power play.

Rucinski attributed the lack of Huskie offense to the early momentum ISU gained. Had NIU scored a goal when down by only one or two goals, the game could’ve been different, he says.

“[The Redbirds] had the momentum, and they weren’t happy with the fact we beat them on Friday night,” Rucinski said. “We expected them to come out a little more inspired. Taking that early penalty set the tone of the game and for whatever reason we just couldn’t recover.”

Toward the end of the game, NIU’s frustration boiled over, and it resulted in first-year forward Osman Cholak and defenseman Tyler Berry being ejected from the game. Berry will also be suspended for NIU’s next game.

NIU’s 6-1 loss drops it to 3-10 on the season. The Huskies will finish 3-5 in conference play in the first half of the season. Rucinski is happy with the experience the team has gained to this point. He thinks his team sees the intensity that needs to be brought night in and night out.

“I still think we have the toughest non-conference schedule in all of ACHA hockey,” Rucinski said. “We played some tough non-conference foes that we didn’t fare well against and that’s OK. They’re scheduled for a reason, and it’s just to give our kids a taste of tougher competition, which is good. We’ve taken a lot out of those games we’ve played, experience wise, for our kids to see the intensity they have to bring every night.”

The team is off Thanksgiving weekend before returning 7:30 p.m. Dec. 6 and 4:30 p.m. Dec. 7 in Toledo, Ohio against the University of Toledo.