By Kim Wrona
12/10/15 – DeKalb, IL | The DIII Huskies traveled up to Milwaukee on December 4 and 5 to take on the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee at Pettit National Ice Center.
The Huskies came out of the first period on Friday with a two goal lead and wouldn’t look back for the rest of the contest. Junior forwards Cody Billeck and Ryan Saunders tallied during the first 20 minutes.
Senior defenseman Gregg Jacobson added a goal during the second period and Billeck tacked on his second of the game to make the score 4-0 in the Huskies’ favor. NIU and sophomore goaltender Zach Bugajsky held on for the shutout to start the weekend on a good foot.
“We got Zach a nice shutout, which we owed him from blowing it the last time,” Billeck said. “Everyone was on their game. [The game was] very organized on our end.”
“Friday was a really, really well-played game by us,” head coach Nick Madonia said. “We played very well defensively, obviously Zach played a great game, but he didn’t have to face too many shots. We were able to pick our spots and stretch the ice out nicely. We knew there was going to be a lot of available ice and we were very smart about when we were going to stretch guys and when we were going to collapse defensively. Overall, Friday was one of the better games we’ve played this year.”
Saturday’s contest was closer than Friday’s. Despite having the start time of the game pushed back by five hours, Billeck got the Huskies out to a 1-0 lead in the first period.
The second period was a scoreless affair, but Milwaukee broke the scoreboard silence as the home squad posted two goals in the third period to take a 2-1 lead.
Senior forward and team captain Jc Weems was able to tie the game up at two with a clutch goal with only 34 seconds left in regulation to send the game into overtime.
Junior forward Tyler Hilton won the game for the Huskies in overtime with his first marker on the weekend. Bugajsky earned his second win of the weekend series thanks to Hilton’s overtime goal.
The Huskies now have a 10-8-1-1 record on the season thanks to their sweep of Milwaukee.
“I think we played the best two games in a row on a weekend all season,” Billeck said. “Saturday’s game was a little tiring after finding out we weren’t going to play at 2 o’clock. … But I think we came out prepared still. We tied it up really close to the end there and put one home in overtime so it was a good win, a good sweep for the weekend.”
“Saturday was a little weird for us,” Madonia said. “We were supposed to play at 2 p.m. and wound up playing at 7 p.m. … Their goalie played a great game. … We were only able to have a one goal lead through the first couple of periods. They came out in the third and jumped on us. They tied the game up and then they scored with three minutes left. I think that was one of the biggest points of the season for us, when they took that lead.
“There have been a couple of times this year where we’ve lost the lead, the other team scores a couple of goals and we go into a shell,” Madonia said. “This time, we were able to score with the goalie pulled with [about] 30 seconds left. Weems had a seeing-eye shot. But Weems has been doing that for five years: he’s been scoring big goals when we need it. And that was a time where we definitely needed a goal. Ty [did] what Ty does and scored a big goal for us in overtime to win it. That was a very, very mentally tough win for us. I don’t think that, under the same circumstances at the beginning of the season, we end up winning [that game].”
The Huskies will close out the 2015 portion of the 2015-16 season with home games against Western Illinois University on December 11 and 12.
“We’ve been playing great hockey lately,” Madonia said. “If we keep the same game we’ve been playing, I think we’re going to be happy with the way we’re going into break.”
The Huskies and the Leathernecks will face-off at 8:30 p.m. on Friday and at 3 p.m. on Saturday at Leafs Ice Centre in West Dundee.