Huskies fall flat in Veterans’ Day outing

Stoffers: “This was by far the worst game of the year.”


Courtesy NIU Hockey

NIU junior goaltender Ben Vutci kneels on the ice during a game against Midland University on Oct. 14. (Beverly Buchinger | NIU Hockey)

By Alex Crowe, Assistant Sports Editor

WEST DUNDEE – The Huskies’ hockey team (0-13, 0-5 MCH) extended its losing streak to 13 games, dropping the first of its two-game home series against Waldorf University (4-8-2, 2-5-2 MCH) by a final score of 9-2 Friday.

Waldorf pounced on the Huskies as soon as the puck dropped. Goals from senior forwards Wade Auger and Zak Jimenez put Waldorf ahead 2-0 in the first minute. The Huskies were pinned in their own zone for most of the first period, and two more Waldorf goals brought the deficit to 4-0 after the first 20 minutes.

Junior goaltender Ben Vutci was pulled in the first period and replaced by freshman goaltender Jacob Piros, who played the remainder of the game and made 19 saves.

Sophomore defenseman Luke Marks said he praises Piros’ ability to come into a challenging situation.

“I think that was his first time playing two full periods,” Marks said. “Of all the goals that were put in, most of them were not his fault, and he did a pretty damn good job.”

Midway through the second period, Marks’ first goal of the season cut the deficit to three goals on the power play when his one-time shot from the high slot off a pass from sophomore forward Jay Kliment beat Waldorf sophomore goaltender Cade Kujawski.

Marks said the setup from Kliment made his job easy.

“I got a good pass for a one-T(one-time shot) from (Jay Kliment),” Marks said. “One-timer went off the top of his pad and went in. Really happy to get my first goal this season.”

Waldorf added three more goals, two from junior forward Austin Mood-Flagg, before the end of the second period to carry a 7-1 advantage into the third period.

The Huskies’ power play converted at 5:20 into the third period when senior forward Hunter Wahl buried a cross-crease feed from senior forward Randy Apter to double the Huskies’ goal total.

Waldorf found the net twice in the third period, including Mood-Flagg’s third goal of the game, to cement it’s 9-2 win.

Head coach Brad Stoffers didn’t mince words discussing his team’s effort Friday.

“This was by far the worst game of the year. Worst I’ve seen this group play. Exhibition game, practice, game, anything,” Stoffers said. “Not picking guys up in front, giving up bad rebounds, no backcheck or any kind of effort to get in the way of anybody defensively, just gave them extra chances – it’s not a good way to win hockey games.”

Marks said he agreed with his coach’s analysis and cited the team getting away from their game as a catalyst for the abysmal effort, specifically in the first period.

“That first period was the worst hockey we have played,” Marks said. “Didn’t clear rebounds, weren’t helping our goalie. Just all around were not playing as the team that we normally are.”

The power play was a bright spot for the Huskies, recording both the teams’ goals. Marks said good puck movement was a factor in the power play’s success and is the key to continued success.

“Our movement of the puck on the power play was the best we’ve been all year by far,” Marks said. “We were moving low-to-high, high-to-low, across the ice, taking shots compared to other games – probably the thing we have to continue into tomorrow.”

Stoffers said the success on the power play came from making smart plays and playing loose.

“I think it’s just guys finally picking their heads up and making some plays, maybe playing a little bit more free,” Stoffers said.

With the Huskies’ losing streak reaching 13 games, Stoffers made clear his team needs to have more energy to have a chance to win Saturday.

“Everything that we did today, do the opposite of that,” Stoffers said. “I see how our team takes the ice. There’s no energy just right from the get-go. “I mean, you got to prepare the right way. You got to take the ice with energy. You have to be ready to play. I mean, literally anything we did today, you gotta do the opposite because, I mean, this was the absolute worst you could do.”

NIU will look to rebound against this same Waldorf team when they finish the weekend series at 5 p.m. Saturday at Canlan Ice Sports in West Dundee.