By Kim Wrona
1/22/16 – DeKalb, IL | The DIII Huskies started the 2016 portion of the 2015-16 season with two contests against Robert Morris University-Black on January 8 and 9 at Leafs Ice Centre in West Dundee.
The Huskies got on the board first in the contest as junior forward Tyler Hilton scored just before the six minute mark of the opening frame. Senior forward and team captain Jc Weems then added a goal from the slot during a delayed penalty sequence to make it 2-0 Huskies with 34 seconds left in the first period.
Junior forward Ryan Long extended the NIU lead with 8:18 remaining in the second period as he put a puck home from the side of the net off of a feed from freshman forward Tom Knetl.
Weems added his second goal of the night just about two minutes later while on a power play to make the score 4-0 in NIU’s favor. With 1:51 left in the middle frame, junior forward Ryan Saunders picked the glove side corner of the net with a shot from the right circle to put the Huskies up by five goals.
Saunders opened up the third period scoring as his shot went five-hole on the RMU netminder while on a power play to put NIU up by a touchdown. Knetl added a goal near the five minute mark of the final frame to put the Huskies up 7-0.
Sophomore goaltender Zach Bugajsky had his shutout bid broken with around 6:30 left in the game as the Eagles got on the board with their first goal of the contest. With 4:03 left, the Eagles tacked on another marker to make it 7-2 NIU.
Saunders sealed the victory for the Huskies with 20 seconds left as he completed his hat trick to make the score 8-2 NIU.
“On Friday, we knew that we couldn’t come out slacking,” Saunders said. “We knew we had to come out hard and play a full 60 minutes. We focused on getting one goal after another and our offense became hot.”
“Friday’s game was good,” senior forward Mike Holum said. “We had a great goalie behind us and Zach bailed us out a lot. We took a lot of penalties, so our special teams were really good.
Saunders getting the hat trick definitely helped us. We played a full 60 minutes. We didn’t have a lot of mistakes other than the penalties and we came out with a win in a big game against a rival team.”
The Huskies picked up where they left off for Saturday’s contest. Saunders opened up the scoring in the game in the first period. Junior forward Cody Billeck tallied once towards the end of the opening frame and then again in the second period to make the score 3-0 in NIU’s favor.
Sophomore forward Eric Brennan added his first goal of the season in the middle stanza as well. Before the frame ended, Holum tacked on two goals to extend the NIU lead to a touchdown.
Senior forward Matt Schaben scored his first goal of the season in the third period to make the score 7-0 in the Huskies’ favor. Later in the frame, Holum completed his hat trick bid with a power play goal. Hilton also tallied in the final period to give NIU the 9-0 victory and the weekend sweep. Bugajsky was in net for the Huskies.
“Saturday’s shutout was created from our netminder and goal scorers,” Saunders said. “We came to play and knew that we had to play the same way we did the night before: come in hard and don’t let up.”
“Saturday’s game was pretty much the exact same scenario as Friday,” Holum said. “Once again, we took a lot of penalties. We lost our heads a little bit. But we still had a great goaltender behind us again and we were able to get him a shutout and we came out with the W.”
The Huskies’ next opponent is Wheaton College. The teams will be participating in a home-and-home series.
“We need to come to play again like we did in the previous weekend and keep putting pucks in the net,” Saunders said. “We need to keep our game simple and play a full 60 minutes.”
“We can’t underestimate them and we need to focus on continuing to play well,” Holum said. “We have two tough weekends after Wheaton and we need to keep the momentum going all the way through until playoffs.”
The Huskies will travel to Glen Ellyn to take on Wheaton at 8:40 p.m. on January 22 at Center Ice of DuPage. Wheaton will then travel to West Dundee to take on the Huskies at 6 p.m. on January 23 at Leafs Ice Centre.