“‘No, not tonight,’” Indiana head coach Todd Yeagley said postmatch of his team's mentality after conceding an early second-half goal to Northwestern. The Hoosiers had already swung and missed on five promising shots on goal in the first half.
Sure, Yeagley said the team stood optimistic in the locker room at halftime, agreeing that they had created chances, with more on the way. But did Justin Weiss' spectacular strike singlehandedly deflate the Hoosiers minutes after the break?
No. Instead, he poked the bear.
Less than five minutes later, three separate Hoosiers — Quinten Helmer, Herbert Endeley and Karsen Henderlong — each drove the ball into the back of the net. And 25 minutes after that, Ryan Wittenbrink added to the scoreline with his team-leading fourth goal.
Northwestern might have kicked Indiana in the teeth, yet the Hoosiers punched right back in their 4-1 victory Tuesday night.
"That's actually really good that happened," Yeagley said. "Because it shows this group had little like, ‘no, not tonight.’ And we need a little bit more of that with this group sometimes. So I love that... they're pretty excited about the way they responded."
Spanning from Brett Bebej's first-half goal in the previous match against Michigan State, which ended in a 1-1 draw, to halftime against Northwestern, Indiana had missed eight consecutive shots on goal. All occurred when the Hoosiers were either tied with their opponent, or in the lead. Never when they trailed. And because overtime is no longer present in regular season matches, perhaps that urgency was all Indiana required to convert finally.
"Obviously, you don't want to have that happen and have to need that," Wittenbrink said postmatch of Northwestern's goal. "Not that we do need that, but I think it definitely gave us a kick like, we gotta go now. So, I think it’s great urgency from the group after conceding."
This wasn't Indiana's first come-from-behind victory of the season. In fact, Tuesday night's match was filled with flashbacks from the Hoosiers' 2-1 comeback over then-No. 20 Butler. Against the Bulldogs two weeks ago, Indiana conceded an early second-half goal, yet less than 15 minutes later, responded with a pair of scores.
Jansen Miller had scored his first collegiate goal against Butler, which was the equalizer. And Tuesday night against Northwestern, Helmer similarly scored his first collegiate goal as Indiana's first scorer. Henderlong, a Xavier transfer just like Miller, also notched his first goal as a Hoosier in the team’s first conference win.
"Karsen's goal was really important for him and he had a nice night tonight overall… All of them were good in different ways,” Yeagley said. “Those guys need to be putting some points out there... we got 10 different goal-scorers (this season) and that's great. But you also want your four or five start to separate a little bit."
Despite the resemblances from the Butler and Northwestern matches, one critical discrepancy sticks out: how desperately Indiana needed the win.
A top-25 victory is always great for any team trying to build a playoff resume. But Butler isn't a fellow Big Ten team. Northwestern is, and Indiana didn't possess a conference win yet through two matches. Losing to a team tied for last place in the standings certainly wouldn't have looked pleasing, but it also would mean Indiana's window of remerging to the top would quickly be closing with only five conference matches remaining.
The Hoosiers didn't let that play out. Their four-goal night is the most number of goals the team has scored in any match so far this season. Plus, this was the first time since Oct. 29, 2019, that Indiana had scored four goals at home against a fellow Big Ten opponent.
Given Indiana's 2-1 loss to No. 22 Ohio State and 1-1 draw against Michigan State to open the conference slate, there was no better time for the Hoosiers to burst offensively. Now, the battle becomes carrying that same effectiveness on the road versus Michigan this upcoming Sunday.