By Kim Wrona
11/13/15 – DeKalb, IL | The DIII Huskies were in East Alton, Illinois to take on Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville on November 6 and 7.
The Huskies got on the scoreboard early and often throughout the weekend.
Friday’s contest featured the Huskies scoring the first two goals of the game. Junior forward Tyler Hilton and freshman defenseman Mike Neville were the goal scorers.
The Cougars got on the board with 4:04 left in the period, but senior defenseman Gregg Jacobson scored a power play goal with four seconds remaining to make the score 3-1 in NIU’s favor.
Neville and freshman defenseman Ryan Elliott tallied early in the second period to extend the Huskies’ lead to four goals. SIUe added another goal in the second period to make it 5-2, but NIU scored four unanswered goals throughout the remainder of the second and third periods.
Junior forward Jeremy Bilecki (twice), Hilton and senior forward and team captain Jc Weems were the goal scorers that made the final score 9-2 for NIU’s victory.
Sophomore goaltender Zach Bugajsky made 29 saves on 31 shots in the contest for his first collegiate win.
“Friday’s DIII game was good,” head coach Nick Madonia said. “It was a little bit of a slower start, but we were able to grind it out. SIUe’s goalie played amazing. Yeah, he gave up nine goals, but it easily could have been 20 with some of the saves that he had to make. He really impressed me a lot. But our team was able to work our way through any scoring issues early and put some in.”
“We were a little slow to start the first period, but after that we picked it up,” junior defenseman Damon Lubkeman said. “We jumped all over them and won the game. It was a very good team effort.”
Saturday’s contest started out with a fluky goal for NIU only 25 seconds into the game. From his own zone, Lubkeman tried to hit Hilton at center ice with a pass, but the pass missed Hilton’s stick.
The puck went down into the other end of the ice and deflected off of SIUe’s goalie’s stick and into the back of the net.
The Huskies scored twice more before the first period ended to give NIU a 3-0 lead; both tallies came from Bilecki.
SIUe started the second period with back-to-back markers to cut the home team’s deficit to one, but Hilton tallied twice in the middle frame to restore NIU’s lead.
The Cougars once again answered back with back-to-back goals to open up the third period to cut NIU’s lead to 5-4. The Huskies continued to battle and scored three times to make the final score 8-4 for the sweep.
Neville, Hilton and Bilecki tallied the final three goals. Senior goaltender Rob Paulsen made 11 saves on 15 shots in the contest.
“We came out real slow,” Hilton said. “We didn’t come out all over them. It took us a little bit to get our legs under us and start playing our game.”
“Saturday’s game they were able to hang around,” Lubkeman said. “They came out flying and we were a little slow just because it was a long trip. But we were able to hang in there. We all played like a team and managed to win.”
The Huskies will now play in the Robert Morris University Showcase on November 13, 14 and 15 in Bensenville. NIU will face RMU Black at 2:10 p.m. on the 13th at The Edge Ice Arena. The Huskies’ second opponent on the weekend is SIUe. That contest is slated to begin at 8 p.m. on the 14th at the John Street Edge. NIU’s final game of the weekend is against Indiana University at 11:50 a.m. on the 15th at The Edge.
“SIUe and Robert Morris are teams that we’ve seen before and we’re going to see again,” Madonia said. “We know if we start to play their style of game and start to take stupid penalties, they’re going to turn into long games. It’ll let them claw their way back into it. Indiana, we’re not totally sure what we’re going to get out of them. Last year we played them pretty close.”
“For the Showcase, we need to come out flying and play as a team,” Lubkeman said. “Communication is going to be key. We split with Black [earlier this season], so it’s going to be a tough game for us. Saturday we just have to play hard and then [for] Indiana on Sunday, we’re going to have to bring our A-game. Everyone has to play 120 per cent for us to be able to win that game.”
“We have to keep doing what we’re doing,” junior forward Cody Billeck said. “We’ve played really well as a team. Our goalies have been really standing on their heads, keeping us in games and we need to keep the puck out of the front of the net and take care of our zone.”
“When we play our style, not many teams will be able to beat us,” Madonia said. “It’s just consistently playing our hockey.”