By Kim Wrona
10/7/14 – DeKalb, IL | The DIII Huskies hosted Robert Morris University Black at the Leafs Ice Centre on Friday and Saturday. The Huskies won the first game of the weekend, which was their first win on the season, while RMU took Saturday’s contest.
The Huskies got on the board early and often on Friday night as they steamrolled their way to an 11-2 victory. Junior forward Tyler Hilton started the party as he got on the board at the 6:07 mark of the first period. Just over 2 minutes later, freshman forward Eric Brennan sent a backhander from right out in front past the RMU goalie to make it 2-0.
Freshman forward Billy Petersen and freshman defenseman Eddie Belliveau also got on the board during the first period to give the Huskies a 4-0 lead going into the middle frame.
The Huskies extended their lead in the second period to 6-0 with markers from junior forward Brandon Bangert and Hilton. Bangert’s goal came on the power play with a shot from the high slot and Hilton’s goal was a good shot from the slot.
The Huskies gave up a shorthanded goal with just under 2 minutes to go in the period, which broke sophomore goaltender JoJo Durrbeck’s chance at a shutout.
NIU bounced back in the third period with 4 consecutive goals to make the score 10-1.
At the 6:36 mark, team captain and senior forward Jc Weems deflected in a Belliveau shot on the power play. The Huskies also got a power play marker from senior forward Brian Staffeldt as he put in a Weems pass from the left circle.
Brennan added his second marker of the night at 14:07 and 19 seconds later, Hilton completed his hat trick.
RMU added another shorthanded goal with 3:40 left in regulation while junior forward Aaron Lewis tallied on the power play with 1:36 to go to make the final score 11-2.
“It was obviously huge just because we knew we had a chance to beat them,” Durrbeck, who made 39 saves on 41 shots, said about the win on Friday night. “We knew that coming off of back-to-back losses that we knew that Robert Morris Black is a team that we could beat and the fact that we came up with such a big win and just to get the first win under our belts was just really huge for us.”
“It was pretty huge, considering we got a bunch of new guys, so it probably made them feel a little more confident,” sophomore defenseman Bryan Peterson said. “It probably brought the team together a lot more because we started out the season bad last year.”
“Friday was awesome,” head coach Nick Madonia said. “We had a game plan and we stuck to it. Off the bat, we went up 4-0 in the first period. It’s really nice to get a lead like that. We didn’t let up. We just kept playing. We had a little bit of a letdown in the second, but we won the period. We kept our cool once Robert Morris started to take penalties, like we knew they were going to. So instead of throwing a punch back, we took the power play and scored on it. I was really happy with the way we handled everything on Friday.”
The 11 goals scored by the Huskies were not just a fluke.
“I would like to think it’s just practice,” Weems said. “All 4 lines are consistently good. We’re not going to have 1 dominant line and 3 subpar lines or even 2 dominant lines and 2 other subpar lines. Everyone has got to contribute for our team to be successful. When every line is producing, that makes mismatches all game long. It makes it tough on the other team’s first line and it makes it real easy on us when we get to their third line.”
“All four lines played really well together; that helped a lot,” Peterson said. “All the chemistry was there. Literally every line got a goal so we had a lot of depth.”
“I think everybody just bought into the system,” Durrbeck said. “Everybody was just ready. Everybody played hard against Missouri State and we had some mistakes that we made against them. We had 2 weeks of practices because we didn’t go to Iowa so I feel like a lot of us just really honed in and fixed the mistakes and we just came in with confidence and everybody just bought in and played at the top of their game and we played the way we could.”
Saturday’s contest did not go the way the Huskies wanted. RMU tallied first at the 13:01 mark of the first period to get an early lead. Hilton scored while falling down with 55 seconds remaining in the period to tie the game up before the intermission.
RMU regained its lead in the second period as they went up 3-1 with 2 goals before the 5 minute mark. Weems and Staffeldt tallied roughly 5 minutes apart in the middle frame to tie the game up at 3.
The goal swapping continued as RMU retook their lead with 9 minutes to go in the period, but then Lewis tied the game up at 4 a minute later. 43 seconds after the Lewis goal, Weems tallied again as he put home a rebound to give the Huskies their first lead of the game.
RMU tallied twice in 13 seconds before the period ended though to put the visitors back up 6-5.
An early third period goal put RMU up 7-5 and also ended senior goaltender Jessica Stubitsch’s night between the pipes; she made 20 saves on 27 shots. Freshman netminder Jake Tower then came in and stopped all 5 shots that RMU threw at him.
Hilton tallied a power play goal with a one-timer from the left hashmarks to make it 7-6, but that was the final score of the game.
“Saturday we came out and played like they played Friday and they played like we did Friday on Saturday,” Madonia said. “Both teams totally flipped. I think we just didn’t have it. By the time we figured it out, it was too late. In the third period, I think we outshot them [19-6], something ridiculous like that, and we just couldn’t finish. It somewhat has to do with tired legs, but we should be able to finish on that team.”
“It was definitely our start,” Weems said on what the difference was on Saturday. “I felt like we had played the same team, but the big difference was us. Obviously, we got down quick. That’s definitely not what you want against a team like that. You give them confidence and that’s all they need. It took some of the wind out of our sails. We definitely deserved to get what we had in the first period. We played awful. I felt we really stepped it up for the second and third, which was good to see, but whenever you give a team like that a little bit of confidence, they can run with it. Friday night we jumped on them quick and they got into penalty trouble early, and that’s how you beat a team, just getting them in the box and beating them on the power play. Our power play has been successful all year, which is definitely a strategy going into it, but we definitely deserved what we had.”
“I think we got out to a slower start,” Peterson said. “I think we were over confident a little bit. Our defensive zone was very sloppy, so we got to work on that.”
“Obviously I think teams in the ACHA know that with Friday-Saturday games, once Friday ends, they know right away they can get ready for Saturday and anything can happen,” Durrbeck said. “I feel like at the same time, we were a little sloppy. I think we came in a little over confident because we beat them pretty bad. But they came in confident knowing that they had a chance to catch us and [they knew we were] a little over confident and they came in real hard for the first period and they tried to take the game and I think they did. It was 1-1 after the first. It wasn’t that they took the game and ran with it, it was just the fact that it was 1-1 after the first after we beat them 11-2. I mean, that’s confidence enough for a team knowing that after 1 period, they’re tied with a team that stomped on them the last game.”
The Huskies’ power play was productive over the weekend. They went 5-11 on the man advantage on Friday night and went 2-6 on Saturday.
“Our power play was awesome, but we gave up 2 shorthanded goals on Friday,” Madonia said. “I know we gave up at least one against Missouri State so our power play is productive, but it still needs to be better. I think we’re trying to do too much with it down low and bringing too many guys down low and turning the puck over high leads to odd man breaks so we have to clean it up a little bit. But, for the most part, I’ll take those percentages all day.”
The Huskies now go on their first road trip of the season down to Southern Illinois University Edwardsville this weekend.
“It should be a lot of fun,” Peterson said about the road trip. “We need to play like we did on Friday and make sure we’re not sloppy in our own zone. We just really need to tighten that up and have less turnovers.”
“It’s going to be a blast,” Durrbeck said. “For a lot of the guys, it’s their first road trip and the fact that it’s a bus trip just helps it out a lot. The bus trip will be a great bonding experience. I think that we just really need to come into Friday with the focus we had against Robert Morris Black.”
“We’re always looking forward to going on the road,” Weems said. “Getting to hang out at the hotel for a little bit, getting to know the newer guys more so just off the ice. With the age difference, it’s hard to get everyone on the same page socially and trying to get to know each other better. But I’ll tell you what, you get stuck in a bus for 5 or 6 hours, you get to know each other pretty well. It’s always a good time.”
“The first road trip is always big,” Madonia said. “I was really upset that we couldn’t do Iowa this year. I scheduled that purposely just so we could get a beginning of the season trip, let the guys kind of get to know each other a little bit better. The positive on this one though is it’s a bus trip and bus trips are great because you have 5 hours, 6 hours on the bus with nothing to do but kind of hang out with each other.”
“The biggest thing we’re going to need to do is play better in our defensive zone,” Weems said. “We got to help out JoJo, Jess, or Tower. They’re going to be between the pipes and they’re going to stand tall for us but we have to minimize shots. If we can minimize the other team’s shots, I guarantee we’ll have a better chance than they do at scoring. We have 4 lines that can all produce and the big thing is to step up defensively and start back-checking better.”
“I’m planning for it like they’re Missouri State, like they’re that level of a team,” Madonia said. “We’re going to go down there and play as hard as we played the first weekend and hopefully come back with 2 wins. It makes that bus ride a lot easier going home.”
“The biggest thing that we have to learn how to deal with is getting big wins and then coming into Saturday and not expecting them just to roll over,” Weems said. “We really have to work on that, work on coming out both nights strong. I think this is the best DIII team in NIU history, in all honesty. I think there’s a lot of talent front to back and between the pipes. It’s good but it’s definitely got to get better.”
The Huskies take on SIUE at 10:45 p.m. on Friday night and 4:15 p.m. on Saturday at East Alton Ice Arena in East Alton, IL.