By: Bryan Peach, KCOU Sports
An unfortunate truth of sports is that no team will find themselves on the winning end of every game. This held true for the Missouri Tigers hockey team Friday as they faced off against Northern Illinois University. The Tigers were pummeled by the Huskies at home 9-1. Mizzou knew coming in that it would be difficult to pull out a win against a solid Huskie squad that had not lost in regulation since the 27th of September. The Tigers would have to execute well in all phases of the game to come out victorious, and to put it simply, they did not.
To Mizzou’s credit, they were able to survive Northern Illinois’ first period onslaught fairly well, the score was 2-0 in favor of the Huskies at the first intermission. The wheels fell off for the Tigers in the second period as they allowed 5 goals. Brenden Haselhorst did all that he could for the Tigers in goal, but it was not enough to prevent Northern Illinois from scoring at will. Late in the game, Zach Fanning was able to net the lone goal for the Tigers; however, by that point the contest was all but decided. Ironically, the Tigers were able to score shorthanded while killing NIU’s power play, but they could not score when they had the advantage themselves. Missouri displayed their frustration in the latter half of the third period, and many scrums broke out between the two teams as a result. All in all, the contest was a disappointment for the Tigers who were coming off a two-game sweep of rival Kansas.
That’s not to say that Missouri didn’t have positive aspects to take away from Friday’s game. The Tigers were able to match up well against the Huskies physically. Where the two teams differed the most was taking advantage of opportunities. Northern Illinois was able to capitalize early in the first period, scoring in the first twenty seconds of their power play. This would essentially set the tone for the rest of the game. Northern Illinois took what opportunities the Tigers gave them and amassed an impressive 8 goal lead by the middle of the third period. Conversely, the Tigers had a 5 to 3 advantage on four separate occasions, and they failed to score on all of them. Their failure to score came in part due to the stellar play of NIU goalie Alex Hare, who stopped nearly every puck that came his way. The Huskies’ defensemen also stepped up by sacrificing their bodies to deflect several of Missouri’s well placed shots throughout the course of the game. Missouri failed to play as well on defense, as displayed by the final score of the game, and that would prove to be the difference.
Despite an undesirable result, the Tigers had consolation in being able to play the Huskies again Saturday. Every individual game is different; the Huskies’ big win in their first game against the Tigers will not guarantee them a win Saturday. If Mizzou does a better job on the defensive end and capitalize on what offensive opportunities they have, they can expect to return to winning form.