Huskies ready to ‘right the ship’ with Midland rematch

Evans: “(If) we just straight up play them, we’ll kill them.”


Beverly Buchinger | NIU Hockey

John Carroll University sophomore forward Sean Deakin and NIU sophomore forward Jason Kliment race to the puck during the Huskies’ season-opening game on Sept. 16 at Canlan Ice Sports in West Dundee. (Beverly Buchinger | NIU Hockey)

By Alex Crowe, Assistant Sports Editor

DeKALB – NIU Hockey (2-20, 1-11 MCH) looks to stabilize after back-to-back double digit losses to the University of Jamestown when they travel to Fremont, Nebraska, to take on the Midland University Warriors (3-17, 3-5 MCH) for a two-game weekend road series on Friday and Saturday.

Head coach Brad Stoffers is back behind the bench for NIU after missing last weekend’s Jamestown series for a recruiting trip.

NIU abandoned its strategies during the Jamestown series. The two blowout losses are a direct result of the Huskies’ poor execution of systems.

Sophomore defenseman Luke Marks said the team needs to return to the systems they run and be fully committed to those strategies.

NIU hockey head coach Brad Stoffers watches from behind NIU’s bench during the Nov. 19 game against Illinois State University. The first-year coach is set to return after missing last weekend’s series against the University of Jamestown while on a recruiting trip. (Sean Reed | Northern Star)

“I think we just have to buy back into our systems,” Marks said. “We kind of moved away from that this weekend – this last weekend we just played – and moving back towards that and kind of trusting in what we have developed is what we need to do.”

With Stoffers returning to the bench this weekend, senior forward Rodahn Evans said Stoffers’ presence will get the team back into the right mindset.

“It comes down to mental preparation,” Evans said. “Having coach (Stoffers) back in the locker room is going to make all the difference.”

Shaking off past struggles

Prior to the Jamestown series, the Huskies’ had won two of its last three games and built confidence in what has been a difficult season.

Marks said confidence from their wins has not disappeared from the locker room.

“I don’t think our confidence has wavered too much,” Marks said. “Obviously, having two very bad games against Jamestown is having two very bad games. But they’re a great team – still nationally ranked – and we can’t let that dictate how we play our next few games.”

Evans echoed Marks’ comments, adding that the team is itching for a good start to the weekend.

“We shouldn’t veer away from any confidence,” Evans said. “We played a great team … we just didn’t have a good weekend and that’s going to happen. So, what we got to do is get back to who we are and what we do – and get a damn Friday win.”

Brain versus brawn

Midland enters the weekend on a six-game losing streak, including losses in all three of its University of Central Oklahoma (UCO) Collegiate Hockey Showcase games.

NIU dropped both its previous matchups with Midland in late October by final scores of 3-0 and 10-4, and Evans said he thinks his team now holds the edge and will have to morph their style to have success.

“We know they like to hit. They’ll hit anything. That’s all they do is hit, hit, hit, hit,” Evans said. “I think what we got to do coming to the weekend is change a little bit on the looking-to-just-hit – just out skill them, out skate them – You know, not a fast team, they’re (Midland) not a smart team, they’re not a skilled team but they are a grindy team. And that’s usually what we are but I think (if) we just straight up play them, we’ll kill them.”

The Huskies engage in plenty of physical play themselves, but Marks said they need to keep their cool against a team that will try to get under their skin.

“We’re a team that can lose our heads pretty easily if there is a bad hit or a bad call,” Marks said. “But remembering that we need to trust our systems and keep our heads and play the kind of hockey we need to play to be successful, I think we’ll be okay.”

The Huskies clash with the Warriors at 7:30 p.m. Friday, then finish the series with another 7:30 p.m. game Saturday at Sidner Ice Arena in Fremont, Nebraska.

Both games are available to watch on Midland University’s StretchLive channel.