By Kim Wrona
2/13/15 – DeKalb, IL | The DIII Huskies ended their 2014-15 regular season on February 6 and 7 as they hosted Augustana College at Fox Valley Ice Arena in Geneva.
The Huskies were able to earn victories in both games, giving them a sweep to close out the year.
Friday night’s game featured scoring early and often.
Sophomore forward Jeremy Bilecki got the Huskies on the board first with a goal at the 1:59 mark of the first period. But Augustana was able to tie the game up less than three minutes later.
Freshman forward Eric Brennan gave the Huskies the lead back at 9:23 of the period, and the Huskies wouldn’t look back after that. They scored seven more times to make the final score 9-1. Senior forward Brian Staffeldt, junior forward Tyler Hilton, sophomore forwards Brian Donchez and Ryan Saunders, sophomore defenseman Erik Demmin, freshman forward Trevor Bondarowicz and Bilecki (once more) tallied the markers; freshman goaltender Jake Tower made 20 saves in the victory.
“Friday’s game was interesting,” sophomore defenseman Damon Lubkeman said. “The game plan was to go out there and make sure we worked on the fundamentals of hockey. We really wanted to focus on making sure that we were playing good hockey to prepare for this upcoming weekend. That was the biggest goal of Friday’s game.”
Saturday’s game saw Augustana score the first goal of the contest at the 5:40 mark of the first period, but the Huskies responded in a big way. They scored 13 unanswered goals as they took the victory 13-1.
Senior forwards Kyle Cornier (twice) and Jc Weems, senior defenseman Gregg Jacobson (hat trick), junior forwards Aaron Lewis and Kyle Luken (twice), sophomore defenseman Bryan Peterson, Lubkeman and Staffeldt (twice) all tallied for the Huskies. Senior goaltender Jessica Stubitsch made 20 saves in the victory; she also recorded an assist on Jacobson’s last goal.
“It was unfortunate that [Augustana] only had eight guys to start the weekend,” junior forward Mike Holum said. “Our plan was to kind of just go out there and skate, wear them down and make sure we got two victories. After we wore them down, we had to just focus on our systems and make sure we kept bad habits out, that way we can continue to play good going into the playoffs.”
Saturday night was also senior night. The seniors that celebrated playing in their final regular season game for NIU were Cornier, Staffeldt and Stubitsch.
“The one highlight I would say of playing Augustana with only eight or nine guys was that the seniors were able to have a little bit of fun,” head coach Nick Madonia said. “[It] let Cornier and Staffeldt kind of take long shifts and goof around a little bit on the bench. It was a nice way to let them finish things up.”
“Saturday’s game was awesome,” Lubkeman said. “It’s always sad seeing the seniors go, but it’s always a good moment for them because they get to reflect on their years of playing for NIU. It’s always a good time when you go out there and get a win for senior night.”
The Huskies will now turn their attention to the MACHA Bronze playoffs, where they will face Wheaton College on February 13 at Owens Center in Peoria.
“We need to stick to our basic game play: easy breakouts, strong defensive play and just work the puck like we normally do,” Hilton said.
“[We need to] just play 60 minutes of hockey,” Holum said. “That’s kind of it.”
“What we need to do against Wheaton is we need to maintain speed,” Lubkeman said. “We’re playing sound hockey so we just need to come prepared and do what we know we have to do.”
If the Huskies defeat Wheaton, they will go on to play Robert Morris University – Black in the championship game on February 14 at 1:30 p.m.
“To finish the season strong, we just need to make sure we’re ready,” Madonia said. “Honestly, every game we’ve played–except the first one—[against] Black has been just a great game: back-and-forth, ups-and-downs every game. We just have to stay mentally strong and take care of things.”