By Kim Wrona
10/25/2017 – DeKalb, IL | The DII Huskies traveled down to Bloomington, IL for two contests against the DI Illinois State University Redbirds on October 20 and 21. Unfortunately for the Huskies, the Redbirds would be victorious in both contests.
The Huskies got out to a great start during Friday’s first period. Sophomore defenseman David Muth scored his third goal of the season to give the Huskies a 1-0 lead just 6:51 into the game. The power play goal was assisted by junior forward Nick Treiber and freshman defenseman Robert Apter.
The Huskies jumped out to a 2-0 lead with less than two minutes to go in the frame as sophomore forward Brad Krauser netted his fourth goal of the season; the marker was unassisted.
During the second period, the Huskies jumped out to a 4-0 lead thanks to two goals from senior forward Eric Svejda. His first of the game was a power play tally assisted by junior forward Tommy Rhyan and Muth. Svejda’s second of the game was an unassisted marker and his 11th goal of the season.
The Redbirds began their comeback at 15:30 of the period to cut the NIU lead to 4-1 going into the second intermission. During the final 20 minutes, the home squad scored five times, including four power play goals, to take a 6-4 victory over the Huskies.
Senior goaltender JoJo Durrbeck made 37 saves on 43 shots in the contest. NIU outshot ISU by a 46-43 margin. The Redbirds went 4-for-8 on the power play while the Huskies went 2-for-12 on the man advantage.
“Our power play actually looked really good this weekend,” head coach Nick Madonia said. “We had sustained zone pressure for a minute and a half, up to two minutes. We just didn’t shoot the puck enough. [But] it just needs to be better than that [2-for-12]. Obviously, there’s a little bit of luck involved. We hit a few posts, their goalie made a few really nice saves, but I feel like if we had been able to capitalize on one or two of those power plays in the first and second periods, then the third period doesn’t happen.
“The third period was just a total breakdown, 100 per cent. We took six penalties in the third and they scored [four] power play goals. It’s a combination of not taking penalties, knowing when a ref is calling things tight, staying out of positions that’ll hurt us, and just really outworking them. Most of their goals weren’t set plays [or] miscommunication on our side; it was loose pucks that we just got flat out beat to.”
“This weekend we started off hot,” freshman forward Michael Pelagio said. “We had four goals right off the bat and we got a little too cocky. But then more penalties started happening and we didn’t know how to react. Our power play wasn’t working out. They came back in the third and finished strong on us. We couldn’t catch-up.”
During Saturday’s contest, the Redbirds picked up where they left off on Friday. ISU scored three times in the first period and then three times during the first half of the second period to take a 6-0 lead over the Huskies.
Rhyan netted his second goal of the season during a power play in the middle frame to get the Huskies on the board. Treiber and graduate defenseman Bryan Peterson picked up the assists on the goal.
Not long after Rhyan’s marker, Pelagio netted his first career goal in a Huskies sweater to cut the NIU deficit to four goals. Senior defenseman Thomas Turner and senior forward LJ Scimeca picked up the assists on the play.
Treiber brought NIU to within three goals before the period expired with his sixth goal of the season; Peterson recorded the lone assist on the marker.
Senior forward Jordan Niedziela scored his third goal of the year to bring the Huskies to within two goals of the Redbirds in the third period; Apter and Turner were awarded the assists on the goal.
The Redbirds would seal the sweep with a shorthanded, empty net goal in last two minutes of regulation to pick up a 7-4 victory over the Huskies.
Durrbeck made 14 saves on 19 shots in his 27:32 of ice time in the contest. Senior goaltender Nick Bove made 22 saves on 23 shot during his 32:28 of ice time.
NIU outshot ISU by a 49-43 margin. The Huskies killed off all six of the Redbirds’ power plays, but the Huskies only went 1-for-6 on their own man advantages. The DII Huskies now have a record of 3-9-0-0 on the 2017-18 campaign.
“Our penalty kill was better,” Madonia said. “Our compete level was a little bit better. But again, the power play needs to find ways to score. We only scored one power play goal on Saturday. It was a simple play. Treiber put the puck on net, Rhyan tipped it, and it went five-hole. It doesn’t have to be pretty, it just needs to get to the net.”
The Huskies will return to home ice this weekend as they are slated to take on the University of Missouri in two MACHA Conference games. The games will be a special event for the Huskies as they are part of Pink in the Rink weekend as NIU supports the Susan G. Komen Foundation to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer research.
“Pink in the Rink is always fun,” Madonia said. “Mizzou will be fun. They’re league games. Our league this year is wide open. I think everyone has won a few games and lost a few games. I don’t think there’s anyone that’s really out ahead of the pack yet. […] Obviously with league play, there are always penalties, there are always power plays and penalty kills. We need to hit better than 10 per cent on the power play this weekend. Our penalty kill just needs to be effective.”
“I think that we need to come out stronger than ever,” Pelagio said. “We need to start getting more wins under our belt. These last three losses have definitely taught us a lot. I think that Mizzou is going to be a tough battle. We can’t take them lightly. We need all lines rolling here. We have a short bench so everyone has to stay healthy and I think we’ll have a good shot this weekend. With Pink in the Rink, we’re going to get more fans [at the game] and it’s a great cause so I think it’s going to be a great weekend overall.”
The Huskies and Tigers will face-off at 7:20 p.m. on October 27 and at 3:30 p.m. on October 28 at Leafs Ice Centre in West Dundee, IL.