By Kim Wrona
9/20/16 – DeKalb, IL | Despite opening the 2016-17 season on the road, the DIII Huskies swept their weekend set of games against Lewis University on September 16 and 17 at Canlan Ice Sports in Romeoville.
The Huskies got on the board early and often on Friday night. Junior forward Danny Behles scored his first goal in a Huskies sweater to give NIU a lead at the 6:11 mark of the first period. He redirected in a shot from senior defenseman Jake Jauch. Behles struck again eight seconds later to extend the NIU lead to 2-0.
Lewis tallied a power play marker halfway through the opening frame, but senior forward Ryan Long restored the NIU two goal lead at the 17:35 mark to make it 3-1.
In the second period, senior forward Aaron Lewis tallied an early marker to make it 4-1 in the Huskies’ favor. The Flyers responded less than a minute later though as they cut the Huskies’ lead to two.
Long responded with his second goal of the night at the 12:55 mark of the middle frame to give the Huskies a 5-2 lead.
NIU added another marker at the 5:46 mark of the third period as freshman forward Colton Schaffter tallied his first goal as a Huskie. The Flyers scored later in the final frame, but the Huskies hung on to defeat the
Flyers by a score of 6-3.
The Flyers outshot the Huskies by a margin of 43-34. The Huskies didn’t convert on any of their five power plays while Lewis University went 2-6 on the man advantage. Freshman goaltender Carl Lindgren made 40 saves on 43 shots in his first start for the Huskies.
“It’s really awesome when you can get [the first win] in books,” senior defenseman Damon Lubkeman said. “It’s awesome to get the first game out of the way for the rookies. That first ‘W’ is always comforting for all of them. We played really well as a team.”
“I thought [Friday] was a really good game,” assistant coach Brian Hyken said. “Obviously, it’s the first game of the season so we had some pre-game jitters. But everyone, especially the freshmen and the new guys, came out and played really well. We got that first goal and were able to play the game that we wanted to play.”
“We really played as well as we could,” Aaron Lewis said. “We made a lot of good plays. Having a lot of rookies, a lot of new chemistry and [getting] everything going was all a little tough, but I think we made it work.”
The Flyers came out strong during Saturday’s game as the home squad grabbed a one goal lead early in the first period.
The Huskies fought back in the second period though as Schaffter netted a power play marker at the 13:23 mark to tie the game at one.
Sophomore defenseman Mike Neville gave NIU its first lead of the game at the 7:27 mark of the third period. Long extended the NIU lead to 3-1 just over three minutes later with his third goal of the weekend.
Schaffter netted his second goal of the game while the Huskies were shorthanded at the 14:12 mark of the final frame to make the score 4-1 in NIU’s favor, which gave the Huskies the sweep of the weekend over Lewis University.
The Huskies outshot the Flyers by a margin of 47-34. The Huskies went 1-8 on the power play and shut down all four of Lewis’ man advantages. Junior goaltender Jake Tower made 33 saves on 34 shots in the contest.
“[Saturday] was awesome,” Lubkeman said. “We really came together in the second and third period and we played a complete 60 minute game. […] We were executing passes and the plays happened just how we wrote them up in the books.”
“[Saturday] was definitely good for the team and good for the coaches,” Behles said. “They had great plans and drew everything up pretty well. We got a lot of chances. We didn’t convert on a lot, but we eventually got enough to get the ‘W.’”
“[Saturday] was a fight,” Hyken said. “We had countless opportunities. We missed probably three or four empty nets that we really should have buried. The score should have been a lot better but we found a way to win.
We’re going to have those games all year where we’re going to have to find a way to win. Not every game is going to be easy.”
The focus for the Huskies now is on their 2016-17 home opener against Eastern Illinois University.
“We definitely need to rest [and] get some practice and conditioning [in],” Behles said about the upcoming week before their next set of games.
“We need to play a complete 60 minute game,” Lubkeman said. “It’s going to take a lot of hard work, discipline and a lot of work in practice this week [to be victorious next weekend].”
“We have to work hard,” Lewis said. “We’ve got to break the puck out. We’ve got to make good passes; they’ve got to be on the tape. We’ve got to take our shots and crash the net.”
“Eastern is going to be a good team,” Hyken said. “I know we played them last year. We let one get away, so we have to make sure that we play a full 60 minutes, skate hard and play the game that we want to [play].”
The Huskies will face-off against EIU at 9:50 p.m. on September 23 and at 8:10 p.m. on September 24 at Leafs Ice Centre in West Dundee.