Capek and Kliment making the leap to Division I


Beverly Buchinger

Member of NIU’s Division I hockey team celebrate during its season-opening match against John Carroll University on Sept. 16. The Huskies fell to the Blue Streaks 7-1. (Beverly Buchinger | NIU Hockey)

Before the 2022-23 season, the NIU hockey program made some changes. Instead of two divisions, there is only Division I for this season.

“We consolidated this year to focus on one team and build a program the right way,” Division I head coach Brad Stoffers said. “We hope to bring it back next season.”

The reasons for this change were conflicts with class schedules, players quitting or players not wanting to play DI level. Although the club couldn’t bring back their other division teams, they did bring back sophomore forward Jay Kliment and sophomore Matt Capek from the Division II team. This weekend, the former division 2 players made their big debut in last weekend’s opening matchup against John Carroll.

“There were little nerves after the first period,” Kliment said. “I got used to it and got it going.”

“For me, not necessarily with goalies, only one guy is playing at a time, and when you are not in that position, it’s about being that supportive teammate,” Capek said. “More nervous for the other guys to go out there and play well.”

First-game jitters is something anyone would expect from players taking the next leap in their athletic career. Players try to get acclimated to a new system and adjust to a faster pace in gameplay.

“It’s a lot faster and a lot more physical,” both players said (Kliment and Capek). Even though it is early in the season, both players feel they have adjusted to Division I gameplay.

“I’ve adjusted well, but there are always going to be times where I believe I can adjust more,” Capek said

Capek and Kliment have started the season with confidence and a positive mind frame. Both sound eager to get going and help contribute to the team’s success.

“We won’t win more games than the previous season and start cementing ourselves as a very competitive team within our conference,” Kliment said.

Kliment and Capek said they both want to have a great first season, and what they expect for themselves is to “become a better goaltender on a technical level,” Capek said. Also to “Score more goals and be more physical,” Kliment said.

The Huskies will look to earn their first win of the season against Purdue University Northwest next weekend in a home-and-home two-game series. The first game will be 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 14 at Canlan Ice Sports in West Dundee.