By Kim Wrona
11/4/16 – DeKalb, IL | The DII Huskies hosted Davenport University on October 28 and 29 at Leafs Ice Centre in West Dundee during the Huskies’ fourth annual Pink in the Rink weekend.
Unfortunately for the Huskies, they didn’t have much on-ice success over the weekend.
The Panthers struck first in Friday’s game as a shot just got past junior goaltender Nick Bove and the puck trickled over the goal line just 3:18 into the contest.
The Huskies were able to tie the game up at the 8:29 mark of the second period. Freshman forward Nick Gulli showed off his hands as he potted a beautiful goal for his fourth marker of the year.
15 seconds later, Davenport regained the lead to make it 2-1 visitors. But less than one minute later, junior forward Mike Wojtkiewicz scored a power play goal to tie the game at two.
49 seconds after Wojtkiewicz’s tying goal, the Panthers took their third lead of the night. They then made the score 4-2 just under four minutes later.
Davenport added two goals early in the third period to make the score 6-2; senior goaltender JoJo Durrbeck replaced Bove after the sixth Davenport tally.
Wojtkiewicz added his second goal of the night for his seventh goal of the season to cut the NIU deficit to three at the 5:57 mark of the final frame.
Sophomore defenseman Joe Schulz scored his first goal of the season with 7:11 remaining in regulation to cut Davenport’s lead to 6-4. But that was as close to a comeback as the Huskies would get. The Panthers scored twice more before the game was over to take the victory by a score of 8-4.
Bove made 28 saves on 34 shots in the contest while Durrbeck stopped 11 of 13 shots on goal. Davenport outshot NIU by a margin of 47-32. The Huskies went 1-4 on the power play and killed off all three Davenport man advantages.
“We evened [the game] out [during] the first period and then we took a couple of bad penalties,” senior forward Ryan Saunders said. “The PK can only do so much. […] Penalties killed us.”
Davenport got out to a good start again on Saturday by jumping out to a 3-0 lead before the first period was over. Saunders brought the Huskies to within two goals with 45.5 seconds left in the opening frame with his third goal of the season. Gulli set him up on a 2-on-1 rush.
The Panthers took over in the second period and never looked back. Throughout the remaining 40 minutes of regulation, Davenport scored eight unanswered goals to take the victory by a score of 11-1 for a sweep of the weekend.
Junior goaltender Jake Leon started the game and in his 40 minutes of action made 30 saves on 37 shots. Durrbeck was in net for the last 20 minutes of the game and made 12 saves on 16 shots. Davenport outshot NIU by a 53-26 margin.
After Saturday’s game, the Huskies’ Pink in the Rink jerseys were auctioned off to fans and other funds were raised for the Susan G. Komen Foundation during the weekend as well.
“Pink in the Rink was another successful year,” general manager Ian Kalanges said. “We raised $3,790. Both teams enjoyed it. Davenport [players] even used pink tape to join in on the fun.”
“It’s just a special event, not only for me but other people as well,” Saunders said. “I know that there are other guys on the team with families that [have been affected by] cancer. Especially for me, my grandma had breast cancer. So it was pretty awesome being able to donate that money towards breast cancer awareness [his grandma received his auctioned-off jersey] and it’s just a special cause and seeing everyone come out for the weekend.”
Before Saturday’s contest, the NIU Hockey organization retired former captain Eric Madden’s no. 10 jersey. It was the first jersey number that the organization has ever retired.
“Eric was a huge part of NIU’s recent success the past few years and he left a lasting legacy to the program,” Kalanges said.
The DII Huskies’ next set of games will be at 7:30 p.m. on November 4 and at 4:30 p.m. on November 5 at Washington Park Ice Arena in Jefferson City, MO as they take on the University of Missouri in two MACHA Conference contests.
“We’ve gone 1-and-3 in league games this year so we have to definitely step up,” Saunders said. “We have to come play our game, do the small things [and] break the puck out. We have to stay out of the penalty box and I think they will be two good games.”