By Kim Wrona
9/23/13—DeKalb, IL The first game of a season for a young team is always a challenge, and for the Huskies, it was no different. They dropped their season opener on Friday night against the Missouri State Ice Bears 8-1, but came out much better on Saturday afternoon and almost mounted a comeback against MSU; they eventually fell 7-5.
“Losing both games in a weekend is never fun, however for our team it was a huge learning experience being the first weekend of games for us,” head coach John Lyne said. “We played one of the hardest teams in our season and the first night, we showed our young and inexperienced lineup with a big loss. However our players had a chance to adjust to the speed and tempo of the college game and we were able to improve greatly for the second game and only lose by 2 goals to one of the toughest teams we play.”
The lone Huskies goal in Friday night’s contest was scored on the power play by junior forward JC Weems in the third period.
Saturday afternoon’s tilt featured freshman goaltender JoJo Durrbeck’s first collegiate start in net and the Huskies jumped out to their first two goal lead of the weekend in the first period with tallies from junior forward Kyle Cornier and senior forward Brian Staffeldt. Staffeldt’s shot from the left circle that beat the MSU goaltender was a beauty. Unfortunately, NIU wasn’t able to hang onto the lead and fell behind 5-2. The goals came fast and furious in the third period with each team essentially trading off tallies. Weems’ natural hat trick in the third period brought the team within one goal to make it 6-5 MSU, but the Ice Bears scored with 1:22 left to make it 7-5.
“We showed that we can play with the best teams we'll see and it was only the first weekend of games,” Lyne said. “We have a lot to improve upon and many positive things to use going forward.”
One aspect of the Huskies’ team game that needs to be better going into next weekend is team discipline.
“We spent way too much time killing penalties and that ultimately cost us the game on Saturday,” Lyne said. “The key to being in the game against good teams is to let them make the mistakes and stay disciplined as a team and we weren't able to do that.”
The Huskies are back on the ice on Friday night in Wisconsin as they take on MACHA conference rivals Marquette University at 7:00 pm. Marquette poses just as big of a challenge for NIU as MSU did.
“Marquette won our division last year and also earned themselves a spot in the regional tournament,” Lyne said. “They should be at a similar level to Missouri State so we will need to again focus on discipline, getting shots on net, and burying our opportunities in the back of the net.
The Huskies face Marquette again on Saturday afternoon at 12:30 pm.