By Kim Wrona
12/7/17 – DeKalb, IL | The DIII Huskies traveled to Bensenville, Ill. for two games against the Robert Morris University-White Eagles on December 1 and 2 at The Edge Ice Arena. NIU defeated RMU in both games to sweep the weekend.
The Huskies scored three times in the first period to take a three-goal lead into the intermission. Senior forward Cody Billeck netted two of the goals—his sixth and seventh of the season—and junior forward Tom Knetl tallied the other goal—his 11th of the year.
Knetl opened the middle frame with his second goal of the game and 12th of the season. The Eagles tallied at 4:40 of the period to cut the NIU lead to three goals, but senior forward and team captain Danny Behles restored the lead four minutes later; the marker was his 11th of the year.
The Eagles continued to battle and cut the NIU lead to three once again 33 seconds later. But the Huskies regained their lead at 12:07 courtesy of sophomore defenseman Matthew Nge’s second goal of the year.
The goals continued to be traded back and forth as RMU scored early in the third period, but senior forward Trevor Bondarowicz answered with his sixth tally on the 2017-2018 campaign to give the Huskies a 7-3 lead.
The Eagles added a power-play goal with nearly eight minutes to play, but Billeck responded less than two minutes later with his eighth marker of the year to complete his second hat trick in as many games. Sophomore defenseman Eric Odolski sealed the 9-4 victory for NIU with his third goal of the season at 16:40 of the final frame.
Sophomore goaltender Carl Lindgren made 40 saves on 44 shots in the contest. RMU outshot NIU by a 44-40 margin. The Huskies didn’t convert on their lone power play opportunity while the Eagles went 1-for-3 on the man advantage.
“Everyone came out ready to play,” Billeck said. “We executed our game plan and we worked really hard to maintain puck possession. We were winning draws and executing our plays off of them in all three zones. We played a great 60 minutes of hockey.”
The Eagles jumped out to a 2-0 lead during the first half of the opening frame on Saturday night. Billeck fired up the NIU offense by cutting the lead in half at 11:15 with his ninth goal of the season.
Knetl then tallied a power-play goal at 16:04 to tie the game at two with his 13th marker on the 2017-2018 campaign.
The Eagles took the lead back at 1:19 of the second period, but Behles tied the game at three with seven and a half minutes left in the period; the tally was his 12th of the season.
The Huskies took their first lead of the game at 1:55 of the third period as junior defenseman Joe Schulz tallied his third goal of the year during an NIU power play. Billeck put the Huskies up 5-3 with his second of the night and 10th of the season at 14:47.
Behles added his second goal of the game and 13th of the year with a minute and a half left in regulation with an empty net goal. The Eagles then tallied with 30 seconds remaining, but the Huskies still took the 6-4 victory for the sweep of the weekend.
Freshman goaltender Ethan Koncor made 9 saves on 12 shots in 21:19 of play while sophomore goaltender Josh Stoos made 25 saves on 26 shots in 38:41 of play. RMU outshot NIU by a 38-31 margin. The Huskies went 2-for-6 on the power play while the Eagles went 1-for-3 on the man advantage. The DIII Huskies now have a record of 7-12-0-0 on the 2017-2018 campaign.
“Saturday night we came out slow, although we finished the first period tied up after being down a couple goals,” Billeck said. “But in the end, we put pucks in the net and got the job done to complete another weekend sweep.”
The Huskies will wrap up the fall semester with a home-and-home series with Aurora University. At 9:45 p.m. on December 8, the Huskies will take on the Spartans at Fox Valley Ice Arena in Geneva, Ill. At 6:10 p.m. on December 9, the Huskies will host the Spartans at Leafs Ice Centre in West Dundee, Ill.