By Kim Wrona
10/7/15 – DeKalb, IL | The DII Huskies were swept at home by Lewis University on October 2 and 3.
The Huskies started off the weekend on a good foot as senior forward Nick Leon put home a loose puck in the crease during a power play to give NIU a 1-0 lead just before the halfway mark of the first period. One minute after the NIU marker, Lewis tied the game up and later took its first lead of the game.
Lewis made it a 3-1 game just past the halfway mark of the second period, but NIU cut its deficit to one with a goal from sophomore forward Eric Svejda with 6:45 left in the middle frame.
Senior defenseman Troy Heurlin tied the game up at three with roughly three minutes remaining in the second period with a power play goal.
Lewis scored the go-ahead goal just shy of the six minute mark of the third period to make the score 4-3, which was the final score.
Sophomore goaltender Jake Leon made 33 saves on 37 shots in the contest.
“I think we got off to a quick start,” senior defenseman Max Finley said, “but then as the game progressed, we kind of started to give up on plays and not finish plays and the work ethic kind of tailed off a little bit as the game went on. We just didn’t finish the game 100 per cent and that’s why we ended up losing, along with some penalty problems, too.”
“We kind of let them dictate the pace of what happened instead of just going in and playing our game,” assistant coach Billy Lyne said. “It showed on the ice. We were kind of running around in the neutral zone and we were giving them space to make plays. Generally, we were getting outworked in our own zone. It turned into a lot of turnovers and it turned into a lot of opportunities for them.”
19 seconds into Saturday’s game, Lewis took a 1-0 lead over the Huskies. It didn’t take long for the Huskies to get their offense rolling. Heurlin (PPG), Svejda (PPG) and freshman forward David Madrigal added tallies in the opening frame to give the Huskies a 3-1 lead.
Lewis then added two markers in the second period to tie the game up at three. Svejda dazzled not long after the tying goal as he let a shot go from between his legs and went five-hole on the Lewis netminder to give
NIU a 4-3 lead with 6:46 remaining in the middle frame.
The Huskies weren’t able to hold onto their lead for the rest of the game. With 3:26 left in regulation, Lewis tied the game and sent it into overtime. With 1:51 left in the extra period, Lewis scored again to win 5-4 and complete the sweep of NIU.
Leon made 33 saves on 38 shots in the contest.
“We worked real hard in the first period, went hard to the pucks like usual,” sophomore forward Billy Petersen said. “We just started going downhill in the second period with a mixture between penalties and being lazy and stuff like that.”
“After we gave up those two quick goals [in the second period], we kind of let off the gas a little bit and we went to more of a protective mode,” Svejda said. “That’s what happened, too, after we scored the fourth goal.
We just tried to defend instead of keep on attacking which I think led to them scoring and then letting them win in overtime.”
“After they scored right at the beginning of the game, we definitely turned it around big time,” Lyne said. “We probably played one of our best periods of the year. After we got out to a 3-1 lead, it almost seemed like we were playing not to lose.
“We kind of got back to their game where we started getting penalties again, where we were dominating 5-on-5 and once it turned into special teams back and forth, we were getting frustrated because we weren’t scoring on power plays and they were getting back to outworking us. Instead of making the simple plays, we were trying to be fancy. It led to turnovers and it led to them putting the puck into the net.”
The Huskies have an off-weekend before getting back to game action on October 16 and 17.
“The off-weekend should help because we can have a little break,” Petersen said. “We have a couple of players hurting right now, so it will give them a chance to kind of rest up and get back to 100 per cent. Hopefully we’ll be ready in a couple of weeks for Mizzou.”
“The off-weekend is going to help with practices,” Finley said. “We’re going to have a lot of time to figure out some D-zone things that we need to work on as well as just figuring some things out in the offensive zone and winning more battles, getting to the net and getting more shots off because there’s definitely some things that we can improve on … in order to get our game to the next level and start winning games again.”
“I think it will help us get our heads back together,” Lyne said. “With unfortunately now dropping three games in a row, I think everyone has been a little frustrated so it will help everyone come back to being centered and get their heads back.”
When the Huskies do return to play, they will be hosting the University of Missouri in NIU’s annual Pink in the Rink weekend at Leafs Centre.
“When we play Mizzou in the Pink in the Rink games, we need to play our game that we know how to play,” Petersen said. “We need to put the pucks to the net like we know how to do. I feel like last weekend … we played their kind of hockey instead of our own. So coming up in the next couple weeks, we should work on playing our own game and making our opponent play our game.”