Hockey fails to keep up with Illini as Huskies lose in Champaign

First-year forward Mason Ihrke fights off an opponent for the puck Nov. 11 against McKendree University at Canlan Ice Sports in West Dundee. 

DeKALB — NIU couldn’t slow down the University of Illinois’ offense in Friday night’s loss at the University of Illinois Ice Arena.

Much of the game was spent on the Huskies’ end of the ice, as the Illini offense applied pressure all game long. Sophomore goaltender Brian Eisele made some spectacular saves, but they weren’t enough to stop the Illini from netting 11 goals.

“Our goaltending looks bad – 11 goals – but [Eisele] played great,” Head Coach Mike Rucinski said. “He made some great saves, and it could’ve been worse.”

In the first period, first-year forward Austin Walny had a chance to open the scoring but couldn’t cash in on a penalty shot. U of I then lit the lamp three times before period’s end and rode the momentum for the remainder of the game.

Early in the second period, Walny had another breakaway and buried the puck, drawing NIU within two goals. The Illini bounced right back, and scored three additional goals in the period.

In the third period, NIU scored three times, but U of I scored five times to give the Illini an 11-4 victory. 

NIU first-year forwards Noah Carlock and Hunter Wahl each got their first goals of the season, and Rodahn Evans scored his fifth.

NIU moves to 2-8 on the season, as the 12th-ranked Illini dealt the Huskies their third straight loss. Despite the team’s record, Rucinski said he isn’t discouraged.

“We’re young and the teams we’re playing aren’t; they’re experienced,” Rucinski said. “We have 18 [first-year players]. We’re just too young and inexperienced, and it’s going to take some time. That’s why we aren’t measuring too much with wins and losses right now. We’re just looking to gain some experience from it all, [to] learn from it, and we will.”

NIU will have a chance at splitting the series 7 p.m. Saturday, as it goes toe-to-toe with the Illini at the University of Illinois Ice Arena in Champaign.

As far as adjustments, Rucinski said the Huskies just need to put more defensive pressure on the Illini, and when NIU has the puck, make the most of its scoring opportunities.

More Sports Stories