by Kim Wrona
1/24/14—DeKalb, IL The D3 Huskies traveled to The Edge Ice Arena this past weekend to take on Robert Morris University Black. NIU was looking to add to the two game winning streak they were on going into the weekend—and they did just that.
On Friday night, RMU got out to a 1-0 lead with a shorthanded goal. Junior forward Kyle Cornier was able to tie the game up for the Huskies before the period ended with a shot from the left circle that beat the RMU junior goaltender Joseph Natali high blocker side.
The Huskies took the lead at 5:30 of the second period as senior forward Brian Staffeldt put home a freshman forward Jeremy Bilecki rebound while on the power play for his ninth goal of the season. Late in the frame, RMU tallied on a 2-on-0 rush that went glove side on freshman goaltender JoJo Durrbeck.
The Huskies were able to regain the lead about two minutes later as freshman forward Ryan Saunders scored his first goal of the season with a backhander from out in front.
In the third period, the Huskies were able to break away on the scoreboard. Junior forward and team captain Jc Weems scored twice in the stanza as he put home a Bilecki rebound with 13:03 to go and then scored a power play goal just over three minutes later.
RMU brought the game within two as they scored with 2:51 left in regulation, but Cornier recorded an empty net goal with 44.3 seconds remaining to give the Huskies a 6-3 victory.
“We went down and then took the lead and never looked back,” head coach Nick Madonia said. “I love the fact that we gave up a goal and kept battling and kept skating.”
“We stuck to our game,” Bilecki said. “Once we got the lead, we kept the lead and we didn’t let down. We kept going strong and we didn’t give them any chances to get back in it. Staying out of the penalty box was huge.” The Huskies were only shorthanded once in the contest.
“It was a big win [to] continue the streak,” Durrbeck, who made 25 saves in the win, said. “I was happy to come back with D3 and contribute to the success they had last weekend. It was fun to get back at it and fun to win again.”
Saturday’s contest was an offensive affair. The first period alone featured five goals. The Huskies went into the intermission down 3-2; junior forward Jon Pounds and sophomore forward Kyle Luken both tallied their first goals of the season for the Huskies.
The Huskies put up five goals themselves in the second period, where they were able to take the lead. Bilecki (once on the power play, once at even strength), Weems (PPG), Saunders and Pounds all scored during the sandwich stanza.
The Huskies took a 7-5 lead going into the third period. RMU was able to tie the game at seven at one point during the period, but NIU stormed back. Cornier, freshman defenseman Bryan Peterson (PPG), and Pounds—for the hat trick—all tallied to give the Huskies a 10-7 win for their fourth win in a row.
“We have to fix our Saturdays,” Madonia said. “We’re scoring ten goals a game on Saturday, but we need to clean up our six and seven [against]. There were a lot of special teams on Saturday. We scored three power play goals and had a few within a few seconds of the penalty expiring. We went down 3-1 and then we scored five unanswered. We let up in the third period and let them tie it 7-7, but after they scored that goal, we put the foot to the gas and took the game away from them.”
“Overall it was a good win for us,” Luken said. “We got down again early but that didn’t stop us from charging back with our stacked roster. We never got down on ourselves and we always tried to look for the positives and the next thing going forward.”
“It was like a football game,” Bilecki said. “It was back and forth but no matter how many goals we [gave] up, we kept coming back stronger and stronger.”
Line match-ups were a big part of the weekend for NIU. The third line of Saunders, sophomore Nick Renville and junior Matt Tiberi was especially effective.
“The biggest thing from the weekend is the development of our checking line,” Madonia said. “We have a third line that I’m comfortable sending out against other team’s top line. I was able to use them to shut down and at least contain the other team’s top line which gave me the opportunity to put my top two lines out against better match-ups.”
The added depth to the roster has had a major role in helping the team pick up two weekend sweeps in a row.
“Most of the new guys have already contributed,” Madonia said. “Luken scored his first goal; Saunders has two; [freshman forward Brian] Kostecka has a couple assists; Pounds had a six point game. All the new guys have been awesome. Everyone’s kind of stepping into their own role and doing exactly what we want from them. [Freshman forward Nick] Relli’s been awesome. He’s a big body that can throw it around.”
The Huskies now have to focus on their last set of home games of the season this weekend. On Friday at 8:30 pm and Saturday at 8:40 pm, NIU hosts Loyola University at Fox Valley Ice Arena.
“It’s going to be a tough [weekend],” Madonia said. “They’re [Loyola] ranked fifteenth in the region. It’s going to be our biggest test this semester. These are our biggest home games and senior night so the team shouldn’t have a problem getting up for these games.”