Men’s club hockey to say goodbye to seniors

By Jason Grodsky

After falling just short of winning the Central States Collegiate Hockey League conference tournament title, the Illinois men’s hockey team returns home this weekend for its final home game of the season.

The American Collegiate Hockey Association’s No. 3-ranked Illini will host ACHA Division-II opponent Western Illinois on Friday at 7 p.m. at the University’s Ice Arena to cap off the regular season and say goodbye to six seniors.

For seniors Mark Myers, Alex Tauchen, Marshall Chubirka, Phil Gerber, Mike Kincaid and Mike DeGeorge, it will be the final time they step on the ice at the “Big Pond” for a game.

“The whole four years have been a great experience for us,” Chubirka said. “Being able to play competitive hockey and get a great education at the same time has been great. I’m going to miss the friendships I’ve built and seeing all of the guys in the locker room everyday.”

Over the course of their four seasons wearing the Orange and Blue, the six seniors have accumulated an outstanding 88-25-6 record.

Since they have arrived on campus, they have led the Illini to four CSCHL Tournament Championship games, winning the 2005-06 title.

The six seniors were part of the core nucleus that won the 2004-05 ACHA National Championship, the first ever national title in Illinois men’s hockey club history.

“They have won a lot of hockey games in their career and have been very coachable and fun to work with,” head coach Chad Cassel said. “It’s a great group of players all the way around and they will be greatly missed.”

Arguably the most notable departing senior is the one who has minded the net for the Illini the last four years.

In his career, DeGeorge has faced a total of 2,783 shots in 113 starts and has only allowed 213 to get by him.

His 89-16-6 record and 1.98 goals-against average is among the best all-time at Illinois, and his save percentage of 92.35 percent is also at the top of the list.

DeGeorge has also accumulated the most awards of all the seniors.

Beginning with the CSCHL Rookie of the Year Award he won for his efforts in net as a freshman in 2003-04, DeGeorge has been named to three consecutive First-Team All-CSCHL teams and two consecutive ACHA Second-Team All-American teams.

DeGeorge’s biggest honors undoubtedly came when he was awarded two Most Valuable Player trophies, one for his performance in the 2005-06 CSCHL Tournament and the other in the 2004-05 ACHA National Tournament.

“There is a sense of sadness and excitement at the same time,” DeGeorge said. “We’re sad that it’ll be our last chance to play in front of our fans but we’re excited to start a new part of our lives after hockey.”

For DeGeorge and his fellow five seniors, their last skate on the “Big Pond” will hopefully be a tune-up for the ACHA National Tournament the following week. While they admit they may have looked past Iowa State in last weekend’s CSCHL Tournament championship game, they are hoping not to make the same mistake twice.

“We’re coming off a loss in our last game so we have to get back to working on all cylinders and work on our run to another national championship,” DeGeorge said.