Hockey to face No. 6 Iowa State at the Big Pond



By Jason Grodsky

Coming off just its second loss of the season, the Illinois men’s hockey club returns home to the Big Pond that is the University of Illinois Ice Arena for their first home games of the second semester.

The American Collegiate Hockey Association’s No. 1-ranked Illini will host the No. 6-ranked Iowa State Cyclones in a pair of important Central States Collegiate Hockey League games starting tonight and tomorrow at 7 p.m.

“It’s going to be great to see our home fans again, especially after two weekends on the road,” senior goaltender Mike DeGeorge said. “It will be nice to see friendly faces rooting us on in the stands.”

While Illinois has already clinched a spot in the CSCHL tournament, the Illini are focused on capturing the CSCHL regular season title, something that has eluded them the past three seasons. The Illini are currently in second place in the CSCHL standings with 40 points and a 10-2 conference record.

Despite being eight points behind conference leader Ohio, the Illini (20-2-0) will have the opportunity to gain ground on the Bobcats this weekend if they can overcome the Cyclones (21-6-1), who are currently fourth in the CSCHL with 30 points and a 7-4-1 record.

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“Iowa State is a very important opponent for us and is a good team that we need wins against in the league,” assistant coach Darin Trulock said. “We let four points slip away this past weekend and every game is important no matter who we’re playing in our league.”

Standing at No. 6 in the ACHA, Iowa State is the highest-ranked team the Illini will have played this season. So far this season, the Illini have played seven teams ranked in the ACHA’s top 20, three of which have been ranked in the top ten.

Illinois’ two losses have come at the hands of top-ten ranked teams.

The Cyclones come in with a 7-1 record in their last eight games and have won their last six. Of their last seven wins, five have come in one-goal games, including one overtime win and two wins in shootouts. One of the Cyclones’ shootout wins came in an upset over CSCHL leader Ohio.

Iowa State is led by forwards Peter Majkozak and Jayson Peterson. Majkozak leads the Cyclones with 23 goals on the season, while Peterson is just one behind with 23. In net, the Cyclones have split time between Trent Baker and Christian Johansson, both of whom have struggled at times.

“Iowa State is a big rivalry game and we usually pack the house for these games so we’re all looking forward to it,” sophomore forward Jordan Pringle said. “They always have played us tough and I’m glad to have them play in our barn. These are two big league games that we have to have”

Illinois will have to face the Cyclones without five of its best players and its head coach, who are all participating in the Winter World University Games in Torino, Italy.

Among the five players are junior forward and team captain Drew Heredia, junior forward Johnny Liang and sophomore defenseman Mike Mannina. Heredia and Liang are among the top point leaders on the Illini with 32 and 25 respectively, while Mannina is arguably one of the Illini’s best defensemen.

With some of its top players gone, the Illini have looked to DeGeorge and Pringle to step up. DeGeorge is among the top goaltenders in the ACHA this year, owning 1.92 goals against average entering this weekend’s play, while Pringle has heated up in the Illini’s last four games, scoring four goals and tallying three assists.

“Everybody has to step up,” DeGeorge said. “There isn’t just one person who can do it all by himself. I’ve got to make the big saves when we need them and guys have to make the big plays and score on every opportunity.”