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Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

Comeback bid fails, Kent State sweeps Huskies

NIU drops tight series finale with Golden Flashes
Beverly Buchinger
NIU graduate forward Nick Gonzalez rushes the puck up the ice during NIU hockey’s exhibition game against the Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings on Sept. 8. Gonzalez scored NIU’s third goal in the team’s 4-3 loss to Kent State on Saturday. (Beverly Buchinger | NIU hockey)

WEST DUNDEE – A strong comeback effort fell short for NIU hockey (0-2) Saturday, who dropped a tightly-contested matchup with Kent State University (4-0) by a final score of 4-3.

The Huskies trailed 4-1 before a goal by graduate forward Rodahn Evans late in the second period and another tally by graduate forward Nick Gonzalez midway through the third period put NIU back in the game. 

After Kent State continued to bully NIU after scoring in bunches in Friday’s opener, Gonzalez said a change in mindset helped keep Saturday’s game close. 

“The whole team thought it was an embarrassing loss,” Gonzalez said. “We had all these fans come out, coming to support our game … That loss is not something we are proud about. So today, we played for the logo on our chest and not for the names on our back.”


After Kent State’s fourth goal with just over six minutes left in the second period, head coach Brad Stoffers called a timeout that marked the beginning of a late-game push by NIU. 

“Let them know there’s a ton of game left,” Stoffers said of his timeout. “Try to learn from our mistakes yesterday when we let the momentum swing and get out of hand. Just trying to fight back – punch back – in that situation so it didn’t get out of hand today.”

Just five minutes after Stoffers’ timeout, Evans tallied his goal to bring the deficit to 4-2 heading into the third period. 

Though the Huskies never found the equalizer, they controlled play enough to outshoot Kent State 37-36. 

“(Stoffers) just told us to dial back in,” sophomore forward Jason Kliment said. “Keep with it, stick with the game plan. And it (the timeout) just worked.”


NIU’s power play was shut down by Kent State Saturday, finding no success on six attempts.

In a game decided by just one goal, Stoffers emphasized getting more bodies to the net front and more willingness to shoot as keys to getting more of those chances to fall. 

“We gotta get hungry at the net,” Stoffers said. “I think we’re a little bit shy to shoot right now too. So, being a little bit selfish, taking more shots and getting guys to the net for screens, rebounds, second chances.” 

NIU spread the puck around Kent State’s zone, searching for opportunities on the man-advantage, but didn’t take advantage of the lanes their puck movement created.

“I think at times we move the puck too much, and we’re skipping on shots that I feel like we had open looks,” Gonzalez said. “Moving forward, I think we need to make one or two passes and then once the lanes open, just start shooting the puck.”


Despite the tightly contested defeat, Stoffers was satisfied with his squad’s response to getting beat down in Friday’s opener.

“There’s a lot of character and a lot of heart. It shows something in the room that we can hopefully work with,” Stoffers said. “We’ve got some pushback. Guys got kicked in the mouth yesterday and came back and gave a response today.” 

With opening weekend in the books, Gonzalez said the team learned a lot about its identity and potential. 

“We learned that we’re actually a really good team,” Gonzalez said. “We learned that we can move the puck well and play well together. The only thing that’s going to hinder us is getting into stuff with the refs. If we keep our heads and worry about the things that we can control, we’re going to be a good team this year.”


NIU travels downstate to take on the University of Illinois in a two-game road series next weekend. Puck drop will be at 7 p.m. Friday at the UI Ice Arena in Champaign, Illinois.

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