NIU hockey eyes win No. 1 in home clash with Waldorf

Team confidence high after gritty effort against top-ranked opponent


Courtesy NIU Hockey

Senior forward Nick Gonzalez (left) and senior defenseman Alec Porzondek greet each other before NIU’s first game of its series against Midland University on Oct. 14 at Canlan Ice Sports in West Dundee. The team plans to use its team-building opportunities from last weekend’s road trip against the University of Jamestown to help the Huskies get their first win of 2022 against Waldorf University this weekend. (Beverly Buchinger | NIU Hockey)

By Alex Crowe, Assistant Sports Editor

DeKALB – The Huskies hockey team (0-12, 0-4 MCH) looks to finally get in the win column on Friday and Saturday when the Waldorf University Warriors (3-8-2, 1-5-2 MCH) visit West Dundee for a two-game series. 

The Huskies embarked on their first road trip last weekend, taking a 10-hour bus ride to Jamestown, North Dakota.

Senior forward and team captain Rodahn Evans detailed how the trip brought the team closer together.

“It was definitely a big glue weekend,” Evans said. “The boys had a lot of fun with their first road trip. Got to know each other a little bit more, got to see different sides of each other.” 

Junior goaltender Ben Vutci described how important the road trip was to boost team chemistry.

“I think road trips are essential to start up any season,” Vutci said. “It really brings guys closer.”

The Huskies dropped both games to the University of Jamestown last weekend, who was ranked fifth in the nation at the time, by final scores of 6-0 Friday and 8-0 Saturday. 

Despite the losses, Evans said he saw the weekend as an example of his team’s potential. 

“We definitely learned that we can be better. We played number five in the nation and only lost 6-0, which is a big thing considering we’ve been losing to bottom 50 teams,” Evans said. “We know we can be better now.”

With the Huskies’ systems being a focus so far this season, Vutci feels playing a top team like Jamestown helped the team better understand their systems and how it translated to improving aspects of their game.

“I think we learned what systems work against the higher end talent and what systems don’t work against the higher end talent,” Vutci said. “We found a solid need for our game. We blocked a lot of shots. The first period of the Friday game I think I saw nine total shots that period and we probably blocked about 15.” 

With Waldorf rolling into town fresh off 5-0 and 8-4 losses to McKendree University last weekend, Vutci said he knows his team will need to bring their A-game to earn their first win of the season.

“It’s really just about dialing in and finding a way to get it done this weekend,” Vutci said. “Waldorf’s a team we know we can beat. We beat them in the past. It’s up to us to execute. There’s not much else we can really do aside from just put a nose to the grindstone and get it done.”

Evans said he wants the team to keep grinding and use the confidence from a solid performance against a top team to find their first win. 

“Just keep rolling. We’re on a little bit of a losing streak right now, but we are rolling off that road trip,” Evans said. “We saw how we can play. We’re going to be better for this weekend. I really think we’re going to get our first one here.”

The Huskies meet the Warriors at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Canlan Ice Sports. The teams will then wrap up the series at 5 p.m. Saturday in West Dundee. 

Friday’s game will be Veterans’ Day at Canlan Ice Sports. All military personnel will receive free admission to the game.

Students receive free admission with their OneCard, and general admission is $5.

The games will be streamed on NIU Hockey’s YouTube channel.