Sophomore heats up ice when Illini need it most

Josh Birnbaum The Daily Illini ME Online

Josh Birnbaum The Daily Illini ME Online

By Jason Grodsky

With a few of its top players overseas at the Winter World University Games, there were some critics who thought the Illinois men’s hockey club would struggle against top-10 ranked teams Lindenwood and Iowa State.

The American Collegiate Hockey Association’s (ACHA) No. 1-ranked Illini have maintained their top ranking and have gone 3-1 without some of their best players as they head into to their two games this weekend at home against ACHA Division-II opponent DePaul University.

A big reason for the Illini’s success so far in the early part of their second-semester schedule has been the play of sophomore forward Jordan Pringle, along with a few key additions to the line-up. In the Illini’s six games since the start of the second-semester, Pringle has lit up the score sheet, scoring six goals and assisting three others.

The only game Pringle did not have a goal or an assist in is the Illini’s lone loss of the semester at Lindenwood on Jan. 13.

“Jordan is definitely the best player on our team right now,” assistant coach Darin Trulock said. “He kind of does it quietly and isn’t really flashy and you may not notice him right away when you start watching but he’s hot right now and finding the back of the net.”

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Pringle’s recent surge of offense has been much needed for an Illini team who lost three of its top scorers and playmakers in juniors Drew Heredia and Johnny Liang and senior Marshall Chubirka to the U.S.A. Select team playing in Italy. With his nine points in the last six games Pringle has jumped into a tie for the team lead in points, and his goal in the Illini’s 3-0 victory against Iowa State gave him the team lead in goals scored at 16, one above junior sniper Alex Park.

“Pringle has definitely picked it up in the last couple of weeks,” senior defenseman Alex Tauchen said. “He was an alternate to go to Italy but wasn’t able to go so that might be sitting in the back of his head and I think he’s playing like he has something to prove.”

Along with Pringle, the Illini have made a few additions to their roster to compensate for the overseas players. Junior defenseman Colin Trulock, younger brother of Illini assistant coach Darin Trulock, and freshman defenseman Pierce Butler transferred to Illinois at semester break, along with freshman goaltender D.J. Kohler.

The additions of Colin Trulock and Butler at the point have been a pleasant surprise for the Illini defense.

In Illinois’ win on Saturday, Colin Trulock scored his first career goal, while Butler provided the senior goaltender Mike DeGeorge with more security.

“They have been big helps for us on defense and we’re still looking to get them more acquainted with the system, but they’ve definitely added to our depth,” Tauchen said. “We’ve had a fairly strong defensive club before they got in and now we’re going to have some competition for spots when guys like Mike Mannina and Dave Schmitt get back.”

Kohler has yet to make an appearance in net for the Illini, largely because of the outstanding play of DeGeorge, who has not allowed the puck to cross the goal line in the last five periods.

DeGeorge will hope to continue his streak this weekend when the Illini host the Blue Demons at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday at the University Ice Arena. This weekend’s pair of games will be the first of three meetings between Illinois (22-2-0) and DePaul (16-10-2) this season.