DeKALB — A hobbled Huskie hockey team couldn’t slow down the McKendree University Bearcats on Saturday night, losing 6-1.
Injuries to first-year defensemen Tyler Berry, Cullen MacNicoll and Drake Gieseke left NIU’s defense extremely depleted, leaving only four defensemen active for the game. Due to the lack of healthy players, first-year forward Austin Walny had to drop back and play his first game as a defenseman.
Saturday’s game had a similar outcome as Friday’s, but the Huskies allowed 25 fewer shots on goal on Saturday night. Quality offensive chances were few and far between for NIU, while McKendree was able to apply plenty of offensive pressure.
The Bearcats started the game hot, scoring only 23 seconds after the opening puck drop. About 12 minutes later, McKendree found the back of the net once again to go up 2-0. NIU had a chance on the power play, but couldn’t bury the biscuit.
NIU’s defense played well for a majority of the second period, even killing off a three minute McKendree power play. Unfortunately, the lockdown defense couldn’t translate to offense for the Huskies. In the last five minutes of the period, things went south. The Bearcats scored a power play goal with 4:58 left, and a 4-on-4 goal three minutes later. Heading into the second intermission, McKendree led 4-0.
The Bearcats wouldn’t relent in the final period, scoring two more goals, one coming while shorthanded. With 8:59 left to play, first-year forward Osman Cholak made sure NIU wouldn’t get blanked, scoring his fifth goal of the season. Assisting on the play was Walny and first-year forward Noah Carlock.
The loss gives McKendree the series sweep, as the Bearcats went 4-0 against the Huskies on the season. It also strengthened McKendree’s grip on first place in Midwest College Hockey and pushed NIU to a tie for fifth place with Waldorf University.
The Huskies are now 5-20 and 5-9 in MCH conference play.
Things will only get tougher for NIU next weekend when they hit the road for games on Feb. 14 and 15 against 25th ranked Robert Morris University. The puck will drop at 7:30 p.m. each night, and games can be watched on NIU Hockey’s Facebook page.