Huskies hockey drop 14th straight against Waldorf


Beverly Buchinger

NIU senior forward Rodahn Evans navigates the puck against John Carroll University junior defender Clayton Gazdak during a game on Sept. 17 at Canlan Ice Sports in West Dundee. (Beverly Buchinger | NIU Hockey)

WEST DUNDEE – NIU hockey’s (0-14, 0-6 MCH) losing streak hit 14 games Saturday when it dropped its weekend series finale against Waldorf University (5-8-2, 3-5-2 MCH) by a final score of 6-3.

The Huskies spent much of the opening period in the offensive zone. Strong forechecking put pressure on Waldorf defenders, creating turnovers that led to scoring chances but no goals.

Waldorf capitalized on NIU penalties by senior forward Rodahn Evans and senior defenseman Alec Porzondek late in the first period. Junior defenseman Michael Heitkamp and junior forward Chayse Haberman scored 16 seconds apart to put Waldorf ahead 2-0. Waldorf tacked on another goal before the end of the first period, taking a 3-0 lead into intermission. 

Waldorf extended their lead to four, just over a minute into the second period with a power-play goal by senior forward Zak Jimenez. The Huskies continued their aggressive forecheck, creating scoring chances; but Waldorf junior goaltender Jordan Berschiminsky kept NIU off the scoreboard. 

The red-hot Huskie power play got NIU on the board late in the second period. Freshman forward Cam Pathana found Evans on the left circle, whose one-time shot beat Berschiminsky on the high far side of the net.

Evans said finding a weak spot in the Waldorf penalty kill led to his goal.

“Coach wants me running around on the power play trying to get to open areas,” Evans said. “I found an open area and Cam (Pathana) picked his head up, gave me a quick pass.”

Evans’ goal cut the deficit to 4-1 heading into the third period. 

Huskie attackers peppered Berschiminsky with shots in the third period, including a shot off the goalpost by junior forward Austin Walny, but they couldn’t find the back of the net.

A Waldorf penalty opened the door for NIU’s power play midway through the period. Evans’ second tally of the night brought the Huskies to within two goals. Haberman responded with his second goal of the night two minutes later, putting Waldorf back up by three goals.

Sophomore defenseman Keaton Peters netted his first college career goal to get NIU back within two goals with three minutes to go, but it was too little, too late. Waldorf senior forward Wade Auger potted an empty-net goal to seal the series sweep.

The Huskies’ effort was much better on Saturday than Friday, outshooting their opponent 37-30. 

Evans said a better mentality helped the team rebound from Friday’s blowout.

“The difference was just attitudes in the locker room,” Evans said. “Yesterday (Friday) we came in thinking that was gonna be a battle, and we didn’t battle. Today, we came in thinking we had to work hard and we worked a lot harder today. We did a lot better.” 

Head coach Brad Stoffers expressed that having a short memory contributed to a better team effort.

“Everybody knew that yesterday (Friday) wasn’t good enough. It’s just a bad day, you put it behind you,” Stoffers said. “I think we just kind of turn the page and get past that and just kind of refresh. Today was a new day. We just kind of had that mindset of a new day.”

NIU’s forecheck was a strength Saturday, forcing turnovers that led to offensive chances. Evans said using a new system in some situations helped open up the rest of the team’s game plan. 

“We were running a trap which is a different forecheck, where you wait for them to come at you and then attack off the turnover,” Evans said. “We didn’t run it much today, but it did work the couple times we ran it. They either had to ice it or we got it.” 

Stoffers cited motivation from Friday’s poor outing as a reason his team forced more turnovers in the offensive zone. 

“I just think maybe guys had some more jump after yesterday, they’re trying to play hard,” Stoffers said. “Maybe led them into forcing turnovers a little bit more.” 

With No. 20-ranked Illinois State University coming to West Dundee next weekend, Evans said the team will need to be ready for a tougher test than Waldorf.

“We’re going to have to work a lot better,” Evans said. “ISU’s a way better team than Waldorf. So we’re gonna have a battle on our hands.”

The Huskies will look to break their 14-game losing streak next weekend when Illinois State University (12-2-2, 7-2-1 MCH) comes to town for a two-game series. The puck drop will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday, at Canlan Ice Sports in West Dundee.