Defense key in Illini hockey victory

By Wes Anderson

The Illinois hockey club usually relies on its potent offense to secure victories. On Friday, the defense proved crucial.

Jason Nemeth scored his ninth goal of the season and the Illini made two crucial penalty kills to survive a tense third period and defeat Lindenwood 3-2.

The Lions struck first at 5:40 into the first period as Cory Spradling’s goal put the visitors ahead 1-0. It was the first time the Illini failed to score first at home all season.

Power play goals continued to be decisive at the wide Ice Arena as the game progressed. The Illini would regain the lead thanks to goals by Nick Fabbrini and Jordan Pringle, both of which came with a one-man advantage. Jason Nemeth would also find the net in the second period with both teams at full strength.

It was the last goal the Illini would tally, however, and after Shawn Gawrys scored on a Lions power play and narrowed the Illini lead to 3-2, Illinois needed to rely on its defensive zone play in the final minutes of regulation.

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Penalties left the Illini with a 5-on-3 disadvantage at one point midway through the final period, but goaltender Mike Burda made a number of crucial saves to preserve the Illini lead. Another penalty kill late in the final period stole the momentum from the Lions and, with goaltender Grahame Lippert pulled from the net, Lindenwood was denied the tying goal as time expired.

The Illini will look to win their third straight game against the Lions and sweep the homecoming weekend series on Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Ice Arena.