Men’s hockey earns recognition

By Jason Grodsky

The Central States Collegiate Hockey League announced its 2006-07 award winners on Monday, and the list was filled with Orange and Blue.

Ten Illinois players were honored with awards, including senior goaltender Mike DeGeorge and junior forward Johnny Liang, who were selected to the First-Team All-CSCHL. While the Illini players were named to various honors, the biggest award taken home by an Illini was the 2006-07 Coach of the Year Award, won by Illini head coach Chad Cassel.

Cassel has led the Illini to a 28-5 overall record and the No. 3-ranking in the American Collegiate Hockey Association despite a large number of injuries that have plagued the Illini throughout the season.

This is Cassel’s second CSCHL Coach of the Year Award since taking over the Illinois program in 1997. His first came in 2002-03 when he led the Illini to its best record in club history at 37-2.

“Obviously, it’s a great honor,” Cassel said. “I think there were a few other coaches in the league that were very deserving. But it was voted on by the coaches and it’s a very nice honor for me.”

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While this is the second time Cassel has been honored by the CSCHL, it is the fourth time for DeGeorge. The four-year starter has now been honored in all four years, earning the Rookie-of-the-Year Award in 2003-04 and was named to the First-Team All-CSCHL since his sophomore season in 2004-05. DeGeorge was also named the CSCHL Tournament Most Valuable Player last season.

Along with DeGeorge, Liang has now been honored in every season since joining the Illini club. In his first season on the ice with the Illini as a sophomore, Liang earned Rookie-of-the-Year honors and was named to the Second-Team All-CSCHL.

Freshman forward J.J. Heredia was named to the leagues All-Rookie team, becoming the third Illini in the past four years to earn that honor.

The most impressive list of Illini, however, came on the leagues All-Academic Team, as sophomores Andy Betourne and Jordan Pringle, juniors Alex Park, Joey Resch and Dave Schmitt, and seniors Marshall Chubirka and Alex Tauchen were all named to the team. It was the second year in a row Chubirka, the Illini’s captain, had been named to the All-Academic Team. The seven Illini were two more than any other team had represented on the All-Academic Team.

Schmitt was also named to the CSCHL’s All-Defensive Team, extending the Illini’s streak of having at least one player named to the league’s All-Defensive Team since 2000-01.

“We’ve had some success this year and the awards have come hand-in-hand with the success,” Cassel said. “The guys are doing something right and it’s nice to see them get recognized and it’s a great honor for them as well.”