By Kim Wrona
11/24/16 – DeKalb, IL | The DII Huskies hosted the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Cougars in two MACHA Conference games on November 18 and 19 at Leafs Ice Centre in West Dundee and NIU picked up two wins on the weekend.
The Huskies got out to a good start during Friday’s game as freshman forward Nick Gulli got NIU on the board first with a shot from the left hashmarks at 9:44 of the first period. The marker was unassisted.
About five minutes later, the Cougars tied the game up at one with a shot from the left circle.
Senior goaltender JoJo Durrbeck and the SIUE netminder didn’t allow anything to get past them in the second period as the teams went into the third period still tied at one.
SIUE broke the tie early in the final frame as the Cougars took a 2-1 lead at the 58 second mark with a power play goal.
46 seconds later, junior defenseman Tommy Turner scored to tie the game up at two.
From the slot at 16:38 of the final frame, Gulli scored his second of the game as he deflected in a shot from senior defenseman Ron Coletta to give NIU a 3-2 lead. The goal was Gulli’s 11th tally of the season.
Durrbeck made some clutch saves in the waning seconds of the game and NIU was able to hang on for the 3-2 victory. The senior netminder made 40 saves on 42 shots in the contest. SIUE outshot NIU by a 42-34 margin. The Huskies and the Cougars both went 1-2 on the power play.
The Huskies scored early and often during Saturday’s contest. Junior forward Patrick Wrobel scored 1:30 into the game to give NIU an early 1-0 lead. 1:14 later, sophomore defenseman Joe Schulz netted his second goal of the season with a shot from the point to put NIU up by two tallies.
NIU continued to pour on the goals as senior forward Tyler Hilton scored 1:05 after Schulz to give the Huskies a three goal lead. 16 seconds later, Wrobel netted his second marker of the game and his fourth of the season to make it 4-0 NIU.
The Cougars got on the board at the 6:44 mark of the opening frame with a shot that got by Durrbeck glove side. The Huskies restored their four goal lead about four minutes later as senior defenseman LJ Scimeca netted his second goal of the season with a shot from right out in front of the SIUE net.
Junior forward Eric Svejda scored his fourth goal of the season 25 seconds later to give the Huskies a 6-1 lead. The Cougars scored before the period was over as a shot from the point went in during a power play to cut the NIU lead to four goals; Durrbeck was screened on the play.
1:50 into the second period, the Cougars cut their deficit to three goals. Less than four minutes later, junior forward Mike Wojtkiewicz netted his tenth goal of the season to restore NIU’s four goal lead.
The teams traded some more goals as SIUE scored about six minutes later to cut NIU’s lead to three goals again, but the Huskies restored the lead once again with 6:15 to go in the second. Senior forward Cody Billeck
was credited with the Huskies’ eighth goal but the shot came from Svejda to make it 8-4 in NIU’s favor.
SIUE then scored just over a minute later to cut the NIU lead to three goals once again. With 2:01 left in the sandwich stanza, Gulli netted a shorthanded goal on a breakaway as he slid the puck past the Cougars netminder by going five-hole for his 12th goal of the year and to make it 9-5 NIU.
The Cougars tallied a power play goal before the frame was up to cut their deficit to three once again.
Hilton scored twice in the first three minutes of the third period to complete his hat trick and to give NIU an 11-6 lead; his third goal was his ninth of the season.
The Huskies were able to hang on for the victory and for the sweep of the weekend. Durrbeck made 29 saves on 35 shots during Saturday’s contest. NIU outshot SIUE by a 46-35 margin. The Huskies went 0-3 on the power play while the Cougars scored on two of their five man advantages. NIU’s record now stands at 8-11-0-0-0.
“Getting the sweep was nice going into the Thanksgiving break because those were two big Conference games where we fought hard and played some solid hockey,” senior forward Ryan Saunders said. “Going into a break after a sweep is a lot better knowing that you got two wins and that you can rest your body after the weekend.”
When the DII Huskies return from Thanksgiving break, they will play three games in three days.
At 10 p.m. on December 1, the Huskies will host Aurora University at Leafs Ice Centre. At 7 p.m. on December 2 and 3, the Huskies will be on the road as they take on the University of Illinois’ DI team at University of Illinois Ice Arena in Champaign, IL.