Div. II hockey splits weekend in Chicago

By James Cantagallo

Going into the weekend, the Div. II hockey team was in for a challenge against an undefeated Robert Morris University Maroon team. The Huskies were up to the challenge and split their series.

NIU (4-2) won its game Friday night 6-3, and junior forward Justin Rucinski recorded a hat trick. Saturday night, the Huskies lost 2-1 in overtime.

“Overall the guys worked hard, and that is nearly half the battle,” said head coach Chuck Rinaldo. “If you are the hardest working team out there you will get opportunities, it’s just a matter of finishing and taking advantage. We finished on Friday. We just didn’t quite capitalize on Saturday.”

Hat trick hero Rucinski is off to a blazing start this season. The junior forward leads the team with seven goals and attributes his early success to teamwork.

“We have been working on it a lot in practice and things are starting to click for a lot of people,” Rucinski said. “All the lines are getting a lot of time together, so the chemistry is building.”

At the beginning of the season, Rucinski was one of the players Rinaldo said to look out for, and he has produced.

“Its good to see Justin getting on board and staying consistent with putting points up,” Rinaldo said. “ … It’s what we expect from Justin. We just hope he keeps it going.”

The Div. III team’s rough start to the season continued as it dropped both games against Robert Morris University’s White team.

The Huskies (0-6) were at a disadvantage all weekend due to a lack of players: Several members were sick with the flu or were out with injuries. On Saturday, the team played with only two lines against the Eagles’ (3-1) four lines.

“We knew going in it was going to be tough, and obviously they were a really good team,” said head coach John Lyne. “We held with them Friday and Saturday for the first period, but when you just have such low numbers and they are playing with a full team they are able to run you down.”

Team captain JC Weems felt the team’s lack of depth was the main reason for NIU’s


“You lose your chemistry, you lose certain aspects of lines because you’re playing basically anyone who is fresh,” Weems said. “We didn’t really have anyone as a buffer line, so it made it tricky. It makes it hard because errors and bad penalties happen when you are tired, and that’s what ended up happening with us.”

Even though the scores were lopsided, as the Huskies gave up 14 and 11 goals to the Eagles over the weekend, one positive was the team’s effort and attitude on the ice.

“When you are missing a lot of guys it is easy to give up, but we didn’t,” Lyne said. “You can easily give up 20 to 30 goals in a game like that, against a team like that.”