By Kim Wrona
10/4/16 – DeKalb, IL | The DIII Huskies hosted Washington University on September 30 and October 1 at Leafs Ice Centre and the two teams split their weekend series.
The Huskies got out to a fast start on Friday as freshman forward Colton Schaffter netted his fourth goal of the season 26 seconds into the game to give NIU a 1-0 lead.
NIU extended its lead to two goals as junior forward Danny Behles put home a feed from sophomore defenseman Mike Neville with 8:41 left in the second period. The marker was Behles’ third goal on the 2016-17 campaign.
Washington cut NIU’s lead to one with 1:44 remaining in the sandwich stanza and then tied the game at two in the third period.
The Huskies took the lead back with 11:28 remaining in regulation as junior forward Brian Kostecka tallied his first goal of the year from the side of the net during a man advantage.
Washington battled back and tied the game up at three with 4:49 remaining in the game which then sent the contest into overtime.
Both teams had power play time in the extra frame, but the additional five minutes wasn’t enough to decide the game as the teams went into a shootout.
In the first round, Washington scored and Neville was stopped. The Huskies tied the game up in the second round as freshman goaltender Carl Lindgren made a nice glove save on the Washington player to open up the door for Schaffter to go bar down on the visiting netminder.
Both goalies stood tall for their respective teams in the third round as Lindgren stopped the Washington shooter’s five-hole attempt and Behles was stopped by the WU goalie’s pad.
Lindgren sticked the puck out of harm’s way in the fourth round to give the Huskies a chance at getting the win. Sophomore defenseman Zach Hoffman took advantage of his opportunity and slid the puck past the right pad of the opposing netminder to give NIU the 4-3 victory in the shootout.
“That [game] shows some character,” head coach Mark Plantery said. “We got up against a little adversity and the kids dug down. Those are obviously high pressure situations.”
“I know there were a couple kids that were a little worried we were going to call their names for the penalty shots there at the end,” he added with a laugh. “But I thought it was a really solid effort. I thought we outplayed them for most of the game. We let them back in the game and to finish it off like we did was nice.”
“It was a tough game,” Kostecka said. “They kept coming back. They were playing really hard. They were matching our speed. […] We got to the shootout and Carl made a big stop before Hoffman made his goal. It was a very emotional win. We were all incredibly happy with that.”
Lindgren made 44 saves on 47 shots in the contest. The Huskies outshot Washington by a 55-47 margin.
The Huskies continued their strong starts to contests and they got on the board 1:39 into Saturday’s game. Junior forward Trevor Bondarowicz put home his first goal of the season to put NIU up 1-0.
Four minutes later, Schaffter netted his fifth goal of the season as he went high glove side on a breakaway to give the Huskies a 2-0 lead.
With 2:05 left in the first, Washington cut NIU’s lead in half with a shot from the left hashmarks as junior goaltender Jake Tower was screened out in front.
Washington tied the game at two near the halfway point of the second period and then took command of the scoreboard from there.
In the third period, Washington put home a shot from the left circle for the go-ahead goal just over three minutes into the frame. The visitors then extended their lead to 4-2 with 5:50 remaining in regulation.
The Huskies thought they pulled within one goal with a minute to go in regulation as Kostecka put home a loose puck from the top of the crease, but it was waved off due to a high stick. Washington was able to hang on from there for the 4-2 victory.
“We ran a couple of set plays off the face-offs and they worked really well,” Plantery said. “Danny won a couple of nice draws and we got a couple of nice opportunities.”
“It is what it is. […] If we score there, who knows what happens? We still had a little over a minute or close to a minute left in the game. It’s an unfortunate call.”
Despite the great start for NIU, momentum swung in the visitors’ favor due to special teams play.
“It felt like we were shorthanded a lot, which killed us and made a lot of our top line players really, really tired,” Bondarowicz said. “When it was time for us to go back out and try to catch up, we were out of gas. We need to work on more conditioning during practice and off-ice.”
“I think a lot of it was penalty kills, especially in the second period,” Plantery said. “It’s a hard change for us because the bench is at the other end, so it’s tough to make changes. A lot of times when you’re killing power plays, they gain some confidence and momentum. I think that’s what happened a little bit. It took us a little while to get it back. And then again, in the third, there were a couple of penalty calls and it just puts you on your heels. It gives them confidence that they can put the puck to the net. I think that had a lot to do with it, in terms of changing the momentum of the game.”
“The other team came out a lot harder [than on Friday],” Kostecka said. “They saw our level of speed. They were hitting. They were pressuring us when we were trying to break out on the point a lot. We were scared at some points. They were hitting us; we just didn’t accept it.”
Washington outshot NIU 46-34 in the contest; Tower made 42 save on 46 shots.
The Huskies will now turn their attention towards their next set of road games against Missouri State University.
“They’re going to be a very good team,” Plantery said. “We have to play flawless hockey. Hopefully, we’ll get a couple of bounces here and there. The effort isn’t the issue. It’s just obviously a little difference in skill level. So, we just have to go down there and focus and be ready to play.”
“To beat Missouri State, we have to keep our heads up, play our game and move the puck well,” Bondarowicz said. “We have to take our chances when we get them because they’re a very solid team, as we have seen through the years. Hopefully, we can stop them and play very good defensively. When we get offensive chances, we have to score and hopefully [we’ll] come out with the win.”
The Huskies and the Ice Bears will face-off at 9:45 p.m. on October 7 and 3 p.m. on October 8 at Mediacom Ice Park in Springfield, MO.