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Illinois hockey looking for winning streak after weekend split

Illinois%27+Eric+Cruickshank+carries+the+puck+up+the+ice+during+the+game+against+Lindenwold+University+at+the+Ice+Arena+on+Saturday%2C+January+30.+The+Illini+lost+4-1.
Illinois' Eric Cruickshank carries the puck up the ice during the game against Lindenwold University at the Ice Arena on Saturday, January 30. The Illini lost 4-1.

Illinois' Eric Cruickshank carries the puck up the ice during the game against Lindenwold University at the Ice Arena on Saturday, January 30. The Illini lost 4-1.

Austin Yattoni | The Daily Illin

Austin Yattoni | The Daily Illin

Illinois' Eric Cruickshank carries the puck up the ice during the game against Lindenwold University at the Ice Arena on Saturday, January 30. The Illini lost 4-1.

Stephen Cohn, Staff writer

While Illinois students have been enjoying winter break, the Illinois hockey team has been trying to catch up in the CSCHL standings.

No. 15 Illinois (13-6-3) got a jump on its spring semester last weekend by splitting a series with Robert Morris (19-4-2) in Bensenville, Illinois.

Two early goals sailed past Illini goalie Joe Olen in a 5-3 loss Friday night. The Illini rebounded with a 4-3 shootout victory over the Eagles on Saturday.

Illinois’ leading scorers carried the offensive load over the weekend. Junior center Eric Cruickshank tallied two assists and a goal, while fellow junior forward James McGing had two goals on Friday.

“Our top guys need to be our top guys for us to win,” head coach Nick Fabbrini said. “But as we’re getting healthy we have guys on all four of our lines that can score.

Junior goalie David Heflin started in net for Saturday’s win. Heflin stopped 40-of-43 shots, including all five in the shootout.

Fabbrini says he rewarded Heflin’s hard work with his first start since Dec. 3.

“[Heflin’s] gotten better since he’s gotten here,” Fabbrini said. “He works hard everyday and this summer he spent a lot of time on the ice.”

Illinois will try to carry the momentum of a CSCHL-win into this weekend’s set in Ames, Iowa, against No. 7 Iowa State. The Cyclones swept the Illini during a visit to Champaign back in October.

Fabbrini says there were positive takeaways from the early-season games.

“Even though we dropped those two games we can draw confidence from the fact that we were up in the third period on Friday night [against Iowa State] before giving up a tying goal and losing in the shootout,” Fabbrini said.

This weekend’s series begins a six-game homestand for the Cyclones. Iowa State is 10-2-0 at home this season.

Sophomore forward Tony Uglem executed a key power-play in the second-period of the shootout loss in October. Fabbrini says Iowa State’s strength is on the advantage.

“They’re a team that is good at forcing you into mistakes and capitalizing on them,” Fabbrini said. “It will be important for us to make sure we’re taking care of the puck this weekend.”

secohn2@dailyillini.com

@stephencohn14

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