By Kim Wrona
10/1/15 – DeKalb, IL | The DIII Huskies took on the University of Wisconsin-Platteville on Friday, September 25 and Saturday, September 26 and dropped both games in their second weekend of the 2015-16 season.
The Pioneers took an early 1-0 lead in Friday’s contest, but the Huskies were able to tie the game up just before the halfway point of the period with a tally from junior forward Tyler Hilton.
The Pioneers then took a two goal lead before the Huskies battled back to tie the game up at three.
Junior forward Cody Billeck scored his first goal as a Huskie to cut NIU’s deficit to one and then Hilton tallied his second marker of the game with a power play goal to even the score.
The teams entered the second period tied, but Wisconsin-Platteville scored four unanswered goals throughout the rest of the game to take the 7-3 victory.
Sophomore goaltender Zach Bugajsky made 53 saves on 60 shots on Friday. Sophomore goaltender Jake Tower came in the game in relief of Bugajsky late in the third.
“It was a good game,” Tower said. “Towards the third, we probably lost our momentum because of bad passing and bad communication on the ice.”
“Friday’s game was good,” Billeck said. “I thought we had a lot potential against that team. We came back in the first period and kind of let go in the third. Other than that, we stuck with that team. It was 3-3 going into the second period and I think we lost our third period legs and that was it.”
“We came out flying,” senior forward and team captain Jc Weems said. “We skated with them all the way up until the third period. … We didn’t beat ourselves which is all you can do with a team like that. You just have to make sure you don’t make it easy on them.”
The home team got on the board twice in the first period on Saturday before the Huskies did. Senior defenseman Brandon Bangert got the Huskies’ lone goal of the game with six seconds remaining in the opening period with a power play marker, assisted by senior forward Mike Holum.
Wisconsin-Platteville then went on to score four unanswered goals to take the 6-1 victory. Tower made 51 saves on 57 shots in his first start of the 2015-16 season.“I was a little nervous just because I know they’re in a league above us. But I came ready to play,” Tower said about his first start of the year. “It was a good game. I thought it was a better game than Friday’s game even though we had minor mistakes that led to some goals that were everyone’s fault and just some of them were lucky bounces.”
“Saturday’s game was a little tougher,” Billeck said. “We still skated with them, but just made some key mistakes.”
“Saturday the score was really not indicative of the game at all,” Weems said. “The final score was 6-1, but they scored three late so you really have a 4-1 game. We put one in late in the first period … After that their goalie cinched it up and made sure he was solid. Their defense really came in solid as well.
“We had some really good shifts and moments where we controlled the game, just couldn’t get past them, couldn’t get that bounce and it’s unfortunate. I felt we played really strong all weekend. We played against a really good team. They’re always top four in the [MACHA] Silver. So, definitely no shame in how we performed this weekend. We were just hoping for a little bit better result.”
The Huskies continue their road trip to start the season with two road games against Bradley University this weekend.
“Bradley is going to be a team where we have to come out and skate hard,” Weems said. “Once again, we can’t beat ourselves, we can’t be taking penalties. Bradley puts out a great team year in and year out. We have to make sure we don’t beat ourselves. [We need to get] lots of shots and get in the dirty areas. When you work hard, you get a few. With those bounces come rewards.”
The Huskies will take on the Braves at 8 p.m. on Friday, October 2 and at 5:45 p.m. on Saturday, October 3 at Owens Center in Peoria, IL.