Hockey seeking first road win against Waldorf


Beverly Buchinger | NIU Hockey

Junior forward Matt Martin skates during the Huskies’ season-opening matchup against John Carroll University on Sept. 16. (Beverly Buchinger | NIU Hockey)

By Alex Crowe, Assistant Sports Editor

DeKALB – NIU hockey travels to the state of hockey in search of its first road win in its final regular season meeting with the Waldorf University Warriors on Friday and Saturday in Albert Lea, Minnesota. 

The teams last met in November, with Waldorf (11-14-2, 5-8-2 MCH) taking 9-2 and 6-3 wins over NIU (4-24, 1-15 MCH). The losses were NIU’s 13th and 14th during its 17-game losing streak earlier this season and gave Waldorf its first two wins of a six-game winning streak. 

Away games have been a big issue for NIU, who have lost all of its eight games as the visiting team this season. The Huskies have been outscored 56-14 in those eight road games.

Driving for many hours has an adverse effect on the Huskies on the road, and sophomore defenseman Luke Marks said the team has tried different methods of increasing energy after a long bus ride. 

“Road games are always tough because you’re always taking a bus,” Marks said. “You always have your bus legs when you get off. You’re stationary, your blood really isn’t flowing. In Midland, we had, like, a full rollout session and using, like, massage guns which actually helped really well … we didn’t do that against McKendree but I think we’re going to try and do that again this weekend.” 

Senior defenseman Austin Walny said while the long bus ride is a factor, finding success on the road comes down to preparation. 

“We haven’t won a road game yet, and I think we need to better prepare ourselves for these next weekends because they would be huge to win,” Walny said. 

NIU suffered from individual defensive breakdowns in its most recent series with McKendree. As a result, the Huskies were outscored 14-3 in the two-game series. 

With the defensive issues being more on the intricacies of the defensive zone scheme rather than the whole system, the Huskies made those smaller defensive aspects a point of emphasis at practice. 

“(Addressing) where people should be at certain situations,” Walny said. “Where you should be when the puck’s in the corner … who you should be picking up in front of the net. Just small details that we have to get better at in the defensive zone.”

Some frustration has seeped in due to the teams defensive struggles and overall season. But in order to be successful in all areas of the ice, Marks said everyone has to be accountable and play as one unit. 

“We kind of have a problem of blaming others,” Marks said. “The defense will blame the offense, the offense will blame the defense, somebody blames the goalie – everybody yells at him … But I think if everybody takes more individual responsibility in their own jobs, I think we will have more success.” 

Waldorf enters the weekend at a low point, losing six of its last eight contests. Having dropped both games to Waldorf in November, NIU sees this weekend as an opportunity to show growth since its 17-game losing streak. 

“I think we’re a lot better team than we were at the start of the year,” Walny said. “So, I think these next two games against Waldorf are going to be real good games.”

NIU takes on Waldorf in the first game of the weekend series at 7 p.m. Friday, then concludes the season-series at 2 p.m. Saturday at Albert Lea City Arena in Albert Lea, Minnesota. The games can be watched via the Waldorf University streaming network.