DeKALB — NIU Hockey will take its two-game win streak to O’Fallon, Illinois for a grudge match Feb. 7 and 8 against the McKendree University Bearcats.
The Huskies were routed by McKendree earlier this season, losing 18-2 and 12-4 Nov. 8 and 9 respectively. First-year forward Rodahn Evans said the team has been looking forward to its rematch against McKendree, and the players have developed a dislike for their Midwest College Hockey rivals.
“I know everyone in the locker room, especially myself, wants to replay McKendree,” Evans said. “It’s more of a pissed-off factor. It’ll be more of a hatred.”
The rematch is coming at the perfect time for NIU after having won consecutive games Saturday and Sunday.
Evans said the team will look to build on its winning ways during practice this week and will try carrying the positive momentum into the weekend.
On the flip side, the Bearcats are coming off a pair of Friday and Saturday losses to Missouri State University. Despite the losing streak, the 25th-ranked Bearcats are having an excellent season. They boast a 12-4 record and sit atop the MCH, while NIU claims the fifth spot.
Head Coach Mike Rucinski said he realizes that reminiscing on the earlier games between NIU and McKendree will do his team no favors, but he believes there may be a silver lining to the disappointing losses.
“It could work to our advantage because I think [McKendree’s] going to look at it like, ‘Hey, we rolled over these guys pretty easy the first time around,’” Rucinski said. “Maybe they’ll take us a little bit lightly. We’ll at least have a little momentum rolling into the weekend, and we’ll go and battle [McKendree].”