Hockey remains focused ahead of contest with Stallions


Beverly Buchinger

Sophomore defenseman Keaton Peters manages the puck during NIU’s game against the John Carroll University Blue Streaks on Sept. 16. (Beverly Buchinger | NIU Hockey)

DeKALB – The Huskies hockey team (0-4, 0-0 MCH) look to snap their four-game, season-opening skid when they take on the Western Michigan University Stallions (1-2, 0-0 GLCHL) in a two-game home series Friday and Saturday.

The Huskie defense has struggled this season, allowing 33 goals through the first four games.

Junior goaltender Ben Vutci described how the team has worked on systems in all zones to get the team on track.

“Getting our systems down, making sure our game plans are finely tuned so we can try to put an end to our skid here to start the season,” Vutci said. “Continuing to work hard and get better every day. A lot of defensive zone, a lot of neutral zone work and some forecheck work too.”

With many goals coming from high-danger areas around Vutci, sophomore defenseman Keaton Peters emphasized the importance for him and his teammates to get more physical, win puck battles, keep the puck away from the net front and be aware of attackers searching for soft spots in coverage.

“I think we just got to take bodies,” Peters said. “Win our one-on-ones in the corners. Be physical and support each other …stay on track in the D-zone and not let anyone sneak behind us.”

Despite the early season struggles, the team isn’t letting negativity seep into the locker room and is looking to this weekend to build confidence.

Vutci believes getting a win would give the team a lot of momentum this early in the season, and help the team get on a roll.

“In terms of confidence for us, it would boost a lot of confidence in the room,” Vutci said. “There’s guys that have been here for four years; I’ve been here three. A lot of freshmen coming in, it would really help everybody’s confidence to get the first win.”

Peters echoed his teammate’s sentiment, describing how the team isn’t focused on their opponent, but rather on improving every day and building confidence.

“We’re mainly focused on ourselves more than the opponent right now,” Peters said. “Trying to improve each and every day rather than, honestly, even knowing who we play. The big thing is just focusing on what’s going on in our locker room … there’s a lot of guys that are probably lacking confidence right now.”

The Huskies will face the Stallions at Canlan Ice Sports in West Dundee at 7:30 p.m. Friday, then wrap up the two-game series at 5 p.m. Saturday.

Saturday’s game is Breast Cancer Awareness night and will feature fundraisers and raffles. All the proceeds will go to the Komen Foundation.

Students get free admission with their OneCard. Tickets are $5 and are available to purchase at the door.