Club hockey to host new Division I team

By Jason Grodsky

The Illinois men’s hockey club will look to remain unbeaten this weekend against American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) newcomer Liberty University.

The ACHA’s No. 3-ranked Illini (6-0) will welcome the No. 18-ranked Flames of Liberty (6-1) to the University of Illinois Ice Arena for a pair of games on Friday and Saturday both starting at 7 p.m.

“We have never played Liberty so we have to come out the way we always do, with a high-powered offense,” senior goaltender Mike DeGeorge said. “Hopefully we can get the goalie nervous and get a lot of pressure on them early.”

Last weekend the Illini passed their toughest test of the young season, squeaking by the unranked Central Oklahoma Bronchos 4-2 at home.

Illinois regrouped on Saturday night to beat the Bronchos 7-2, but now realize that the team has to come out with more intensity in their first games of the weekend if they are to remain unbeaten. So far this season the Illini have scored 12 fewer goals in Friday games than in Saturday games.

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“We need to come out and set the tempo early,” junior team captain Drew Heredia said. “After what happened last weekend, (we) can’t let teams hang around, especially here at our own rink. We have to get off to a good start because it carries over into Saturday a lot of times.”

Through six games the Illini have been led by Heredia. He leads Illinois with 15 points, recording five goals and ten assists on the season to date.

His 15 points are tied for seventh overall in the ACHA. Last season Heredia finished tied for fifth on the team with 35 points, and attributes his success this year to his teammates and the Illini offense.

“My linemates have been awesome,” Heredia said. “Joey Resch and Johnny Liang are great players and are experienced. We’re able to spread the puck and points around well. Overall we have a good offense going.”

Another reason the Illini are once again having early season success is the play of DeGeorge.

After five starts in net this season DeGeorge has allowed just nine goals on 99 shots and has already posted one shutout for the Illini.

His goals against average is an outstanding 1.80 per game and he has a save percentage of 90.91 percent.

“I’ve done what I’ve been asked to this year,” DeGeorge said. “On a team where we have this much offense it makes my job really easy. They are scoring just over six goals a game, so technically all I have do is let in less than five which makes it easy.”

As for Liberty, the Flames are led by Dave Semenyna. Through five games Semenyna has recorded 11 points for the Flames and is tied for 11th overall in assists in the ACHA.The Flames will be the second ranked team Illinois has had to face this season. The Illini won their only other two games against a ranked opponent, beating then 18th-ranked Oakland University 7-2 and 6-3 on the Illini’s season opening weekend.

“Liberty is going to come out looking to knock us off,” DeGeorge said. “We are going to expect their best game because they are a new Division I team and they are looking to make a statement.”