By Kim Wrona
1/29/16 – DeKalb, IL | The DIII Huskies had a home-and-home series with Wheaton College on January 22 and 23. The Huskies came out on top in both contests.
Friday’s tilt was in Glen Ellyn at Center Ice of DuPage. NIU got on the board first as sophomore forward Eric Brennan tallied his second goal of the season. Later in the opening frame, junior forward Tyler Hilton netted a goal for his 25th tally of the year to put the Huskies up by two.
In the second period, junior forward Cody Billeck put NIU up by a field goal with his 15th marker of the year. Wheaton got on the board for the first time in the game near the midway point of the middle frame. The goal was scored while the home team was on a power play.
Senior forward and team captain Jc Weems restored the NIU lead with his 15th goal of the year. Billeck added his second of the game and 16th of the season to put the Huskies up 5-1. Junior forward Brian Donchez tallied later in the middle frame for his first goal of the year.
Junior forward Aaron Lewis also scored his first goal of the season on Friday night during the third period of play. Senior defenseman Gregg Jacobson netted his third goal of the season in the final frame to make the score 8-1 NIU, which is how the final stood.
Sophomore goaltender Jake Tower made 12 saves on 13 shots in the contest. The Huskies outshot Wheaton by a 42-13 margin. The Huskies went 1-4 on the power play and Wheaton went 1-4 on their man advantages.
“Friday against Wheaton we were able to start strong and stay ahead,” senior forward Daniel Flynn said. “Wheaton has a good group of guys with a lot if heart.”
The Huskies and Wheaton played Saturday’s contest at Leafs Ice Centre in West Dundee. The Huskies also got on the board first in this contest as Donchez cleaned up his own rebound near the six minute mark of the game.
Hilton scored just over four minutes later to put NIU up 2-0 as he sent a backhanded shot into the back of the net. Sophomore forward Trevor Bondarowicz also netted a rebound goal in the first period. The tally was his second of the year.
Hilton netted his second of the game and 27th of the season with 4:30 left in the opening frame to put NIU up 4-0. Wheaton tallied before the period was over though while on a power play to make it 4-1 NIU.
Freshman defenseman Mike Neville opened up the second period scoring with his seventh goal of the season. Freshman forward Thomas Knetl tallied just over a minute later to put the Huskies up 6-1. Less than a minute after that, Knetl scored again and that marker was his fifth goal of the season.
Neville also scored his second of the game and eighth of the year as he picked the glove side corner on the Wheaton goaltender with 6:14 left in the middle frame.
Freshman defenseman Zach Hoffman netted his first goal of the season with 3:05 left in the second period to put the Huskies up 9-1.
The Huskies got out to a quick start in the third period as junior forward Ryan Saunders netted his 11th goal of the year to put NIU up by nine. Flynn tallied 34 seconds later as he scored from right out in front of the Wheaton net after a nice pass from Neville. The goal with Flynn’s second of the year.
Junior forward Ryan Long netted his second goal of the season with just over eight minutes left in regulation. Donchez added his second marker of the game with 2:22 left for his third goal of the year.
Junior defenseman Damon Lubkeman scored his second of the year with 22.8 seconds remaining to put NIU up by 13 goals. Wheaton scored with 16 seconds left though to make the final score 14-2 in NIU’s favor, which gave the Huskies the sweep of the weekend.
Tower made 18 saves on 20 shots in the contest while NIU outshot Wheaton by a 51-20 margin.
“Being home was nice to get some fan support,” Flynn said. “We were able to try some different stuff on the bench. It was a fun weekend and I’m glad we got to play against a good group of guys.”
“Friday and Saturday we came to play,” Knetl said. “We played our game the way we know how and we walked away with four big conference points.”
The Huskies will play in another home-and-home series this weekend, but this time they will be up against Aurora University.
“AU is a team we really have to respect and can’t take lightly,” Flynn said. “We have to put in a good week of practice to get ready for them. A good weekend for us could really help us get regional votes.”
“Aurora will be two big games for us, [especially after] the league [gave] us some recognition,” Knetl said, referring to the DIII Huskies receiving votes for Pacific Region rankings for the first time in franchise history. “We’ve been working hard at practice and if we show up to play and we do what we do best, I believe that we can beat them.”
The Huskies and Aurora will square off at 9:45 p.m. on January 29 at Fox Valley Ice Arena in Geneva and then at 6 p.m. on January 30 at Leafs Ice Centre.