By Kim Wrona
12/3/13—DeKalb, IL On November 22nd and 23rd, the D3 Huskies took on Wheaton College in a weekend set at Center Ice of DuPage.
Friday’s contest went extremely well for the Huskies as they picked up their 2nd win of the season. Freshman forward Jeremy Bilecki led the way offensively for the Huskies as he recorded a 6 point night (3 G, 3 A) in the 8-6 victory.
The Huskies led 2-1 going into the 2nd period on tallies from Bilecki and sophomore forward Nick Renville. During the sandwich stanza, the Huskies scored 2 shorthanded goals—courtesy of senior forward Brian Staffeldt and junior forward/team captain Jc Weems to increase their lead to 4-1. Bilecki added his second of the night with 7:22 left in the frame to make it 5-1.
The scoring went back and forth in the 3rd period. Wheaton got one back and then Staffeldt scored on the power play to make it 6-2. Wheaton closed the gap to 2 with goals that came 27 seconds apart before freshman defenseman Erik Demmin collected his 3rd point of the night with a power play goal with 11:16 remaining in the tilt. Bilecki finished off his hat trick with 7:51 left with his 7th goal of the season.
“We came into the weekend very confident in our practices and how we’ve been playing and felt it was a good opportunity for us to grab some points,” said freshman goaltender JoJo Durrbeck, who made 46 saves in the win. “Friday was good for us playing in front of a good sized crowd and putting up the most goals [we’ve scored] this year. The only thing we had trouble with was our defensive zone and we wanted to work on that for Saturday’s game.”
The offensive success of NIU’s special teams on Friday was a welcome sight.
“Special teams in this league is what makes or breaks your season,” coach Nick Madonia said. “If you have a good power play, you’re going to do pretty well, same with the penalty kill. There’s so much special teams work in a weekend that it ends up being the deciding factor in games.”
Saturday’s game was almost the total opposite of Friday’s. Wheaton took a 1-0 lead going into the 1st intermission, despite Durrbeck making some big saves for the Huskies during the opening 20 minutes.
The Huskies battled back in the middle frame with 2 goals that came less than 3 minutes apart to give them the 2-1 lead. Weems tallied his 14th of the season and then junior defenseman Gregg Jacobson recorded his 1st goal on the 2013-14 campaign for the go-ahead goal.
The Huskies had the lead up until the 6:16 mark of the 3rd period when Wheaton tied the game up. 33 seconds later, the home team struck again to grab the lead. Wheaton then added 2 goals—the 2nd one being an empty net tally—to take the victory 5-2.
“Saturday was a good game as well where we played a great all-around game and our 2nd period was phenomenal,” Durrbeck said. “Going into the third, we were hoping to continue our play, but some defensive breakdowns cost us some goals and we couldn’t fight back after that. The short bench made it hard for us to wrap-up the game late on Saturday and played into the comeback win for Wheaton.”
The game on Saturday evening was fairly tame; only 6 penalties were called in total—2 were against the Huskies and 4 were against Wheaton.
“It was a good game,” Madonia said. “It wasn’t too chippy either way. The refs didn’t have to do much on their part; it kind of worked out evenly both ways. It got kind of chippy from time to time, but nothing went overboard.”
NIU doesn’t take the ice now until December 13th and 14th when the Huskies take on Aurora University at Fox Valley Ice Arena. They’re looking to build off of their last set of games against Wheaton for those 2 match-ups.
“Overall, it was a great weekend with lots of positives we can take into the games against Aurora coming up and the second half of the year after break,” Durrbeck said.
The game on the 13th has a puck drop of 8:30 pm and the 14th’s tilt is slated to begin at