Huskies held scoreless in beatdown by Jamestown


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)

WEST DUNDEE – NIU hockey was run out of its own building Friday in a 12-0 thrashing at the hands of the fourth-ranked University of Jamestown Jimmies (14-5, 8-1 MCH) at Canlan Ice Sports.

The loss was the Huskies’ (2-19, 1-10 MCH) third loss to Jamestown this season. The Huskies have yet to score a goal in those three games.

With sophomore defenseman Keaton Peters out of the lineup due to a hand injury, junior forward Austin Walny filled the hole on NIU’s blue line.

Walny said he is excited to help the team in an area he feels is crucial to winning games.

“I kind of felt pretty comfortable. I kind of knew what I had to do,” Walny said. “Our defensive zone wasn’t really that strong and I think it loses us games sometimes. So, I feel like I definitely help out in the D (defensive) zone.”

Jamestown got rolling early in the first period. Junior forward Reid Wilson gave his team the lead 6:30 into the first period, and the Jimmies never looked back. Goals from senior forward Carter Johnson, junior defenseman Andrew Clark, freshman forward Jordan Baranesky as well as Wilson’s second of the period put Jamestown ahead 5-0 after 20 minutes.

NIU had almost no puck possession throughout the game, only mustering 11 shots on goal to Jamestown’s 73.

Associate coach Wayne Bower filled in for head coach Brad Stoffers, who is on a recruiting trip.

Bower said his team’s sloppy execution of their neutral zone trap system gave Jamestown too much space to hold on to the puck and described how his squad can limit the Jimmies’ puck possession.

“We have to play a more defensive strategy,” Bower said. “We’ve been working on the trap all year and we have to use it, and we have to buy into it, and they have to make sure that they do the things to make it work because it does work when we do it.”

With the neutral zone scheme being a point of emphasis for NIU, freshman forward Cam Pathana echoed his coach’s analysis and pointed to abandoning what they’ve practiced as a catalyst for their lack of possession.

“We didn’t execute what we worked on in practice,” Pathana said. “That’s like our biggest part of our game is our defensive and how our neutral zone is. And literally, we just didn’t do it today.”

The second period was much like the first period, as Jamestown peppered junior goaltender Ben Vutci with 22 shots. The Jimmies put three more pucks behind Vutci, including Clark’s second tally, to give Jamestown an 8-0 lead heading to the final 20 minutes.

The Huskies have yet to score a goal in three games against the Jimmies, and Bower said the solution to their lack of offense is simple: shoot the puck.

“I’ve told them in the locker room that I promise they won’t score any goals if they don’t shoot it,” Bower said. “So, we have to get pucks on net, and then try to go for rebounds.”

With how talented Jamestown is, Walny said the team may have felt some pressure that led to his team not taking shots and complicating the game.

“We were kind of jittery I think and nervous about playing this team because they are ranked No. 4 in the country,” Walny said. “Coaches told us get as many shots on net as we can, and we did not do that today.”

Vutci was pulled to start the third period, and freshman goaltender Jacob Piros finished the game for the Huskies. Piros made 19 saves in the final 20 minutes.

Jamestown was all over NIU in the third period, scoring four more goals, including Wilson’s third of the game. The Huskies finally broke some of Jamestown’s momentum when freshman forward Kole Christensson was ejected for boarding NIU sophomore defenseman Luke Marks.

The Huskies could not find a goal on the ensuing five-minute power play, and Jamestown cruised to a 12-0 win.

The Huskies will have another chance against Jamestown on Saturday, and Bower said defense has to be the focus for his squad to have a chance.

“We have to lock it down. We have to play more of a defensive strategy,” Bower said. “We have to limit their opportunities coming through the neutral zone. If we can keep them, you know, at bay there – and that’s where the trap comes into play – then we have opportunities to generate offense off that.”

After being embarrassed on their home rink, Pathana said the team needs to be ready to play a physical, puck possession-focused game.

“We got to go out there ready to get in corners with guys,” Pathana said. “Just make the right plays and don’t just throw the puck away. We threw the puck away a lot today. We got to possess the puck more and kind of use our bodies – body guys off and just be smarter with the puck.”

The Huskies and Jamestown play their final regular-season meeting at 5 p.m. Saturday at Canlan Ice Sports in West Dundee.

The game will be streamed on the NIU Hockey YouTube channel.