Hockey teams take on busy weekend

By James Cantagallo

The Div. II and Div. III hockey teams will return to action this weekend after a bye week.

The Div. II team will have an unusual three-game schedule this weekend.

The Huskies will play California State University – Fullerton at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Fox Valley Ice Arena in Geneva. Then NIU will play Illinois State University at 9:10 p.m. Friday at the Pepsi Ice Center and 3 p.m. Saturday at the US Cellular Coliseum, both in Bloomington.

“It definitely will be a bit of a challenge for guys to have the mentality of going three games in a row,” said head coach Chuck Rinaldo. “In one aspect it will be kind of nice having a home game on Thursday night. We haven’t had many home games lately, so it will be nice to at least play at home after our weekend off and be able to get in the swing of things before we head down to ISU.”

The Huskies (5-4-1) took advantage of the bye week to heal lingering injuries.

“The first thing we worked on was trying to get everybody healthy,” Rinaldo said. “We gave some guys some time off and just tried to heal up some bumps and bruises.”

Being healthy for the weekend series vs. ISU (12-2) will be important. Last year the Redbirds had NIU’s number as they beat them four times.

“We hold a personal grudge against them,” said team captain Nick Remley. “Last year they put a whooping on us and knocked us out of regionals. That is something we weren’t too happy about. Three times we played them really close and lost by a goal or two, but then they beat us pretty good at regionals. We are trying to let them know that we are a better team this year, and if we see them in regionals that is not going to happen again.”

Rinaldo believes the Huskies are prepared for the tough series ahead vs. ISU.

“It is always a heated matchup with them being in the [Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Hockey Association],” Rinaldo said. “…I think we all finished the season thinking we should have at least taken one or two from them. To go down and play them at ISU this season will be a challenge, but it’s a challenge we are ready for, and I think there is a bit of animosity there with the rivalry building.”

The Div. III hockey team will also have a tough test at home against Northwestern University.

The Huskies will face off against the Wildcats (3-4-1) at 8:30 p.m. Friday and 8:40 p.m. Saturday at Fox Valley Ice Arena.

“[Northwestern] beat Marquette, who beat us pretty [handily],” said team captain JC Weems. “Also, they beat Robert Morris, who beat us pretty [handily], so we will be having a tough go of it this weekend, but we’re going to show up and give them the best we can and hope to squeak out with a win or two.”

NIU (1-8-1) will need to stay disciplined in order to be successful this weekend.

“We can’t be taking dumb penalties,” Weems said. “We can play with most teams at five on five, but once we start playing five on four we have too short of a bench and everyone gets pretty tired.”

In order for the Huskies to stay competitive with Northwestern they will have to get better on the power play.

“There are a lot of special teams in this league, especially this division during division games, so we just have to take our chances when we can get them,” said head coach Nick Madonia.