By Kim Wrona
10/15/15 – DeKalb, IL | The DIII Huskies finished their beginning of the year road trip with two games against Robert Morris University-Black on October 9 and 10. NIU was able to pick up its first victory of the season in the process.
The Huskies drew first blood in Friday’s game with a goal from junior forward Jeremy Bilecki near the five and a half minute mark of the first period.
Senior forward and team captain Jc Weems added a goal from the slot just over two minutes later to extend the Huskies’ lead to 2-0.
Junior forward Cody Billeck tallied from the high slot less than one minute later to put the Huskies up by three.
RMU got on the board in the second period, but Bilecki was able to score his second goal of the night to restore the Huskies’ three goal lead. With two minutes left in the middle frame, Billeck also added his second marker of the evening to make the score 5-1 NIU.
RMU closed its gap to two goals in the third period, but senior forward Mike Holum sealed the deal for the Huskies with an empty net goal to give them a 6-3 victory.
“It was good to get our first win over our biggest rival,” Bilecki said. “We played solid and had good, clean breakouts. We jumped on them early and we let off a little bit, but we scored when we needed to. … It was a nice way to get our first ‘W.’”
“I thought we started the game off good,” sophomore forward Trevor Bondarowicz said. “During the second period, we had some breakdowns. But towards the end of the third, we picked it back up.”
“Friday we got off to a good start, just like we said we needed to,” head coach Nick Madonia said. “We let off a little bit too much. We allowed Robert Morris to come back into the game. But they played a [heck] of a game. Every time we’ve seen that goalie over the last two years, he’s been tough to score on. [It was] a combination of him playing lights out and us hitting posts that stopped us from pulling away with it. Luckily, we were able to keep our foot down long enough to pull out the win.”
Saturday’s contest started off well for the Huskies as they scored twice before the halfway point of the first period; Weems and Bilecki were the ones who tallied for NIU.
RMU got on the board with four minutes left in the opening frame, but Billeck tallied his third goal of the weekend with 45 seconds left to put NIU back up by two goals.
Unfortunately for the Huskies, that was the last taste of the lead that they would get for the rest of the game. RMU scored six unanswered goals—the last one being an empty net goal—to defeat the Huskies by a score of 7-4.
“We jumped out to a quick start like we wanted to, but we let off the gas pedal and they scored a lot of goals,” Bilecki said. “We were just battling back and it feels like everything that could have went wrong with bounces and posts and missing wide open nets [went wrong]. … It wasn’t that bad of a game, but it could have been a lot better. We stayed out of penalty trouble, which is good.”
“We definitely started the game off good,” Bondarowicz said. “In the second period, we couldn’t do anything right. In the third period, we did not come out good.”
“Saturday started off really well; we had a 3-1 lead going into the second,” Billeck said. “In the second, we fell apart. We need to be better in the second period all around. We need to take care of our defensive zone.”
“We got off to a really good start and Robert Morris started to fight back again, just like they did on Friday,” Madonia said. “We waited a little bit too long to put pressure back on. Again, Robert Morris’ goalie played lights out. He made it real hard on us and we got a little bit down on ourselves when we weren’t getting bounces and we weren’t capitalizing on some of our chances. Robert Morris played a better game than us when it mattered. They outshot us in the third period in a game where we were losing; that’s something that can’t happen.”
The Huskies will be at home for the first time during the 2015-16 season on October 16 and 17 when they will take on Dordt College at Leafs Ice Centre in West Dundee.
“I’m very excited, as I’m sure the rest of the team is, to get a couple of games on home ice,” Madonia said. “We’ve been out of town all season so far, so it will be nice to have our fans [cheer us on].”
“It’s our home ice and we want to defend our house,” Billeck said.
“We need to play like we know how to play and have clean breakouts and stay out of penalty trouble,” Bilecki said. “As long as we keep our offense how we did last weekend against Black, we should be fine. We have to stay on the gas pedal and just don’t let up on it.”
Friday’s contest is slated to begin at 10 p.m. and Saturday’s tilt is set for 6 p.m.