Hockey powers past Eagles

By Dan Berrigan

With a full roster for the first time in six games, the Illini slaughtered the seventh-best team in the country 10-1 and 6-1.

Illini head coach Chad Cassel said he was surprised at how handily the team won this weekend and credited the success to the power play.

“The bottom line was they were undisciplined, and we took advantage of that,” Cassel said. “We buried our power play opportunities both nights and put the games out of hand for them.”

The Illini’s power-play unit was 8 for 16 overall against the Eagles, and Cassel said the “high-octane” performance of special teams gives the Illini the edge over any team.

“Come tournament time, special teams are big…and I don’t know if there is any team in the country that can put five players out on the ice at one time with the offensive ability that we can,” he said.

Illinois’ offesive power took over Friday’s game when the Illini rocketed out to a 5-0 lead in the first period. Freshman forward Nick Fabbrini led the Illini with three power-play goals in the game for his first career hat trick. Before the game, senior defenseman Tom Fullerton told Fabbrini he was due for a big game, but Fabbrini said he had no idea how big.

“The guys on my line were getting me the puck all night,” Fabbrini said. “I probably could have had seven or eight the way we were playing.”

Eleven Illini had points, and while it showed off Illinois’ offensive strength, the most impressive play came the next night.

In the second period of a 2-0 game, Eagles senior forward Greg Anderson decided to pick a fight with Illini senior forward Brian Coleman. As the two seniors fell to the ice, Coleman’s helmet was ripped off and Anderson kept trying to slug Coleman. But instead of fighting back, Coleman pulled himself out from under Anderson and skated away to the bench – keeping himself out of the penalty box.

“Being a senior, I only have a handful of games left, and I don’t want to have to watch any of them from the stands,” Coleman said. “I have my whole life to fight in men’s leagues.”

Anderson received a four-minute double minor penalty and the Illini quickly capitalized. Both Coleman and junior forward Mike Roesch scored to make it 4-0 Illinois.

“Whenever you play cheap teams like that, it’s a great feeling to just shove it down their throat,” Coleman said.

Controlling emotions and playing disciplined hockey, Cassel said, allows a team to bury an opponent on the scoreboard without taking penalties.

With the wins, the regular season championship will come down to two games next weekend. The Illini must defeat St. Louis twice on the road and hope Kent State can upset No. 3 Ohio. If not, Ohio University will repeat as the regular season league champions.

“It’s pretty frustrating that we can lose it while having all those guys over in Austria, but that’s how things worked out and we had opportunities,” Coleman said. “We’ll move on to league (playoffs) and nationals because that’s really why you play – to win those titles.”