By Kim Wrona
11/2/13—DeKalb, IL The D3 Huskies traveled down to Bloomington this past weekend for two match-ups against Illinois State University; NIU was riding their momentum from their first point of the season against Purdue on October 19th.
They used that momentum to their advantage as they picked up their first victory of the season with a 5-4 win; the W was also freshman goaltender JoJo Durrbeck’s first collegiate win and coach Nick Madonia’s first win behind the bench.
“Relief,” Madonia said when asked about how the team felt after the win. “That’s the most effective word for it.”
“We were just really happy to get that first win under our belts,” Durrbeck said. “It was good to see the coaching change didn’t take too long to kick in. We’re starting to move in the right direction slowly but surely.”
From a personal standpoint, the victory was extremely special for Durrbeck.
“I for sure was ecstatic about it,” he said. “It was too surreal for me, especially playing against ISU and beating them in their home rink. But overall, guys were happy for me in general and they were going out of their way to say congrats.”
“He played a great game,” Madonia said about Durrbeck. “He’s been reliable all season, but we finally put together a full game in front of him.”
The offense saw a few new faces score their first goals of the season. Junior forward Matt Swastek and sophomore forward Brandon Bangert both scored their first goals of the season; junior forward Kyle Cornier chipped in with two tallies and junior forward and team captain JC Weems added his 8th goal of the season en route to the 5-4 win.
“It’s nice being able to roll out 3 lines that can you can rely on to keep pressure and keep the puck in,” Madonia said. “You burn a lot less gas in the offensive zone than the defensive zone.”
“We keep working hard and getting those lucky goals and that shows that we’re not giving up as a team,” Durrbeck said. “It’s good to see the other guys produce so we don’t have to focus on a few guys [for offense]. It shows we have depth up front.”
Unfortunately for the Huskies, they weren’t able to carry their momentum into Saturday’s tilt against ISU; they dropped the contest 11-3.
“They came out expecting ISU to roll over,” Madonia said. “We went over it in the locker room and told them it wouldn’t be an easy game, especially since ISU got reprimanded by their coach.”
“It was honestly just a mixture of them being ready to play and wanting it more from the start,” Durrbeck said. “We were pretty relaxed during the day. We looked focused and ready to play, but they were way ready to play. We didn’t necessarily shut down, but they just kept bringing it on. It was a different situation for us that we have to get used to, especially with having a bunch of rookies on the team. We need to work on that and get our minds set, we came in with a little more cockiness than we should have. We didn’t play to the best of our abilities.”
The Huskies now have a weekend to regroup before taking on Northwestern University on November 8th and 9th at Fox Valley Ice Arena in Geneva; game times are 8:30 pm and 8:40 pm respectively.
“It gives us more time to prepare,” Madonia said. “Me and [coach] Pat [Giannini] haven’t had much time with practices and with the team to do things the way we want them done. This will be our first weekend off.”
Northwestern will be a tough opponent for NIU.
“We’ve talked a little bit about them being a strong team,” Durrbeck said. “It’s a rivalry and we’ve had troubles with them in past years, but they’re stronger this year and we’re going to have to step up our game even more. We have to focus on our practices first, make sure things are on point and make sure everyone’s on the same page and our game is where we need to be. We need to focus on the Friday game, have a strong game, and then go into Saturday’s game [with a good mindset].”
While picking up another win or two would be nice this weekend, just picking up points would be good for NIU.
“We’re trying to get points where we can,” Durrbeck said. “We won’t be broken up over an overtime loss, but it shows us that we need to work harder to go get that second point.”