Hockey falls to Illinois State, extends losing streak to 15

NIU+freshman+forward+Cam+Pathana+%2864%29+pressures+a+Purdue+University+Northwest+player+during+a+game+on+Oct.+14+at+Canlan+Ice+Sports+in+West+Dundee.+%28Beverly+Buchinger+%7C+NIU+Hockey%29

Beverly Buchinger

NIU freshman forward Cam Pathana (64) pressures a Purdue University Northwest player during a game on Oct. 14 at Canlan Ice Sports in West Dundee. (Beverly Buchinger | NIU Hockey)

By Alex Crowe, Sports Reporter

WEST DUNDEE – NIU hockey (0-15, 0-7 MCH) fell short of obtaining its first win of the season Friday, dropping the opener of a two-game home series to Illinois State University (13-2-2, 8-2-1 MCH) by a final score of 10-1.

The loss was NIU’s 15th straight and kept them winless on the season.

ISU got the scoring started just under 6 minutes into the opening period. A point shot was tipped and saved by Huskie junior goaltender Matthew Capek, who made 42 saves, but junior forward Tony Campise stood right in front of the net to clean up the rebound. 

The first period didn’t fare well for the Huskies, who surrendered two more goals to head into the break down 3-0.

ISU jumped on NIU right away in the second period. Junior forward Joe Rascia, senior forward Mitchell Oberlag and senior forward Trevor Hilt all scored in the first five minutes of the period to put ISU up 6-0. 

The Huskies ran a passive forecheck during some parts of the game to halt ISU’s attackers from gaining speed through the neutral zone for an easy offensive zone entry.

Head hockey coach Brad Stoffers said playing against a skilled team like ISU requires a combination of passive and aggressive forechecking.

“There’s times where we’re running a certain forecheck where I want our guys to be a little bit more passive and clog up the neutral zone a bit more. And then there’s times where we’re going to go at them a bit more,” Stoffers said. “There could have been a couple times when, strategically, we were pulling back on purpose to try to clog the zone and make it tougher.”

The downside to the passive forecheck Friday was that it allowed ISU defenders to make a play without much pressure from Huskie forecheckers until they reached the neutral zone.  

Freshman forward Cam Pathana said that even though playing passively was working well, the team needs to be more active in taking away space when the puck reaches the neutral zone. 

“It was effective a lot today when we executed it,” Pathana said. The only way to be more aggressive … is we can send that first guy in, have him attack, and then instead of sitting so far back with our four other guys, we can move them up a little bit and, kind of, take away more of the ice.”

The Huskies’ scorching-hot power play, which had scored five goals in its previous two games, got a goal back for NIU. Senior forward Rodahn Evans pulled two defenders behind the net and found Pathana all alone for an easy tap-in. 

Pathana said Evans trying to make a move behind the goal to toss the puck into the net had allowed him all the space he needed for the easy goal.

“He (Evans) went behind the net, he had all the time in the world, and he tried to do The Michigan move,” Pathana said. “Once he tried that, both the D (defensemen) in front of the net went to each side of the post — left me wide open. Puck squirted out right to my stick, and I just tapped it in.”

Pathana’s goal was all NIU would score Friday. ISU added four more goals before the final buzzer to take game one of the weekend series 10-1. 

Stoffers said that despite the score, he felt his team played a solid game early on but allowed a few ISU goals to shatter their mentality.

“I thought it should’ve been 1-0 after the first. Thought we had a good effort,” Stoffers said. “But it’s 3-0, and then you’re in a hole, and then our guys are down mentally, and it throws everything off. Second period we were way off. They outplayed us really, really bad, and obviously it just kind of snowballed.” 

Pathana said he agreed with Stoffers, citing the need to be ready defensively and ready to bury scoring chances when they arise.

“We had our good plays, bad plays. The score definitely didn’t result, I feel like, about how we played,” Pathana said. “We just got to bury more pucks, be ready. We got to play more defensively. Be in position and be ready for those shots when they come.”

With the Huskies having another shot at ISU on Saturday, Pathana said playing with more jump and playing more physically will lead to success.

“You could see it. We were flat-footed,” Pathana said. “You got to take more body. Getting in their face. You know, play more physical hockey … They got some speed – just clog them up. Get in front of them … Don’t let them just skate by you. Get in their lane.”

NIU will be back on the ice against Illinois State at 5 p.m. Saturday at Canlan Ice Sports in West Dundee.