Club hockey teams find form in second games

By James Cantagallo

The puck dropped for the first time this season for the men’s Div. II and Div. III hockey teams over the weekend.

The Div. II team split its weekend series against Missouri State University (1-1). After dropping their first game 3-2, the Huskies bounced back Saturday night and won 3-2 in a shootout.

Head coach Chuck Rinaldo felt good about how NIU (1-1) played its opening weekend.

“We had a tough loss on Friday, but the team played really well overall,” Rinaldo said. “Missouri State is really good; they will be one of the toughest teams we will play all year. To be able to play them tight in their home opener — it’s a tough place to play down at Missouri state — I thought the guys did really well.”

Senior forward Nick Leon, who scored the game-winning goal in the shootout, also felt good about this weekend’s results.

“It was good,” Leon said “It may have not been exactly what we wanted not getting two wins, but it was good to see at the beginning of the season, especially going down to Missouri State and taking two of the points.”

A bright spot for the Huskies was their junior goaltender, Alex Hare.

“Hare played great,” Leon said. “He stood on his head the first game, keeping it three to two instead of six or seven to two.”

The Div. III team didn’t fare as well opening weekend. NIU lost both of its games to Missouri State University, 8-1 and 7-5.

The Huskies (0-2) struggled in their first game as many of the freshmen played in their first collegiate games.

After getting their feet wet in game one, NIU played much better in game two and head coach John Lyne was positive about the first weekend of play.

“Obviously the first one didn’t go the way we would [have] liked, but we turned it around for Saturday and played a good game,” Lyne said. “We were within a goal with two minutes left in the game, so definitely a huge turnaround and a lot of things that we can be proud of and look forward to the rest of the season.”

One thing NIU can look forward to is the play of its captain, JC Weems. The senior forward had a big weekend, scoring the lone goal in game one Friday night and recording a hat trick in the third period on Saturday.

“It was tough getting back into game mode from practice mode,” Weems said. “The second day, I felt I played a lot better. I forechecked a lot better, forcing the other team to make dumb plays and make them think. I came alive in the third period.”

Lyne felt the whole team became better as it gained experience over the weekend.

“Our players got more comfortable and made adjustments to the speed of the game,” Lyne said. “After the first day, our passing was better and our shots were better. Once we started scoring goals the confidence starting coming. The fact that you know you can score on them helps quite a bit.”