By Kim Wrona
10/29/15 – DeKalb, IL | The DIII Huskies hosted Lewis University on October 22 and 23 at Leafs Ice Centre in West Dundee and swept the two games of the weekend.
The Huskies scored early and often throughout Thursday and Friday’s games.
Thursday’s contest started out with a bang as junior forward Tyler Hilton scored 43 seconds into the game with a backhanded shot. Less than one minute later, junior forward Jeremy Bilecki found himself on a partial breakaway and he put the puck into the back of the net to make it 2-0 NIU.
The Huskies added four more goals in the first period. Bilecki completed the hat trick while senior forward and team captain Jc Weems and senior forward Mike Holum also tacked on markers to make the score 6-0 going into the second period.
Junior forward Cody Billeck fed Hilton on a 2-on-1 break while shorthanded at the 6:09 mark of the middle frame for Hilton’s second goal of the game. Lewis was able to break sophomore goaltender Jake Tower’s attempt at a shutout at the 9:20 mark to make the score 7-1 NIU. Holum cleaned up a rebound with 1:18 to go in the second period to restore NIU’s seven goal lead.
The third period was relatively quiet on the scoresheet until Billeck scored a power play goal with 40 seconds remaining in the game to make the score 9-1 NIU.
Tower made 30 saves on 31 shots in the contest and NIU went 3-3 on the power play.
“I think we played really well,” Holum said. “We played 60 minutes of hockey and were moving the puck well. All of our lines were being effective. We were able to pull away with an early lead and really keep on it.”
“It was a good game,” Bilecki said. “We came out with good intensity. We came out flying. … We really put the pedal to the metal. We took a lot of penalties [in the second period]. We just didn’t play our kind of hockey. Overall though, it was a good game.”
“Thursday was good,” assistant coach Brian Hyken said. “It was nice to see that we came out fast; we got a couple of goals out of it and actually kept going. The last couple of games, we’ve been jumping out to a quick start and then letting off the gas. It was a good start for us.”
Friday’s game started similarly to Thursday’s game as Hilton scored the first goal for the Huskies in the contest. Hilton then tallied the second goal while shorthanded to give NIU a 2-0 lead just past the halfway point of the first frame. Bilecki tacked on a marker with 1:26 left in the period to put the Huskies ahead by three.
Billeck scored the lone goal of the second period and senior defenseman Brandon Bangert scored 30 seconds into the third period to give the Huskies a 5-0 lead. Bilecki tallied his second goal of the game just over one minute later to make it 6-0.
Lewis broke senior goaltender Rob Paulsen’s attempt at a shutout at the 2:45 mark of the final frame, but sophomore forward Trevor Bondarowicz restored the Huskies’ six goal lead with just under five minutes remaining in regulation to seal NIU’s 7-1 victory and weekend sweep.
Paulsen made 40 saves on 41 shots in the game for his first collegiate win.
“We came out kind of flat,” Paulsen said. “We really let Lewis start taking it to us and making us play in our own zone and not getting the puck out. We ended up skating away from that period with a 3-0 lead and we were out played for the majority of the period. Our forwards did a really good job of getting opportunities when they had them, even though they were few and far between in the first period.”
“We started off pretty slow, but ended well,” senior forward Daniel Flynn said. “The first period, we only got three goals; it really wasn’t a great start compared to Thursday’s game. Stupid penalties stopped in the second period and the third period was a lot better.”
“Friday’s game we came out real slow,” Bilecki said. “Paulsen came up clutch. He had a really good game. … It was 3-0 after the first, but we stepped it up after that. … Overall, it was a good weekend. We got the big sweep, which is what we needed going into the [next] games.”
“We came out in the second and we completely turned it around,” Paulsen said. “I think I had to make one or two decent saves and that was it. The rest of the time the puck was in the other end of the ice … We came out in the third and we stuck with them. They ended up scoring a goal on a decent shot through a screen and a lucky bounce and it went in … We played really well. The D was clearing everybody in the corners and keeping the puck in front of them and letting me see the puck, which was really good. The forwards were helping break the puck out. We were moving the puck out really well and everyone was skating.”
“We came out a little bit slower this time, but we kept at it,” Hyken said. “We had that killer instinct that we’ve been lacking this year.”
The Huskies have an off-weekend before getting back to the grind at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville in two weeks.
“It’s going to allow us to relax,” Holum said. “We started out going 0-5-1 and got a little banged up. We were able to get some wins and now we can relax and work on some of the smaller things.”
“The off-weekend is definitely going to help,” Hyken said. “We have a couple of guys that are kind of dinged up so it will give them a little time to rest, recover and get ready for SIUE in two weeks.”
The Huskies know they have to keep up their recent play if they want to continue to have success on the ice.
“If we play 60 minutes, we’re going to be a tough team to beat,” Paulsen said.
“We have to go down there and play our kind of hockey and not let off the gas and keep pushing,” Bilecki said. “We don’t want to make it a close game. We want to set a statement for our league that we’re not here to joke around. We’re here to be feared.”
The Huskies will take on SIUE at 11:30 p.m. on November 6 and at 5:45 p.m. on November 7 at East Alton Ice Arena in East Alton, Illinois.