Hockey sweeps No. 9 team keeping perfect record intact



By Wes Anderson

An unprecedented season kept getting better last weekend as the Illinois hockey club swept a two-game series against No. 9 Kent State at the Ice Arena.

The Illini won 6-1 Friday and 5-2 Saturday, improving their record to 23-0-0 and extending the longest winning streak in club history.

Senior center Drew Heredia led the No. 1-ranked Fighting Illini with three goals on the weekend, but the series truly showcased the offense’s depth. Seven Illinois players scored a total of 11 goals in the two games.

“We can really wear teams out by just going one line after another, and anybody can score on a given night,” winger Jordan Pringle said.

The Illini never trailed in the series and used the second period of each game to pull away, scoring a total of eight goals. The victories secured their 11th consecutive sweep this season.

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Sophomore goaltender Mike Burda continued his strong play of the past three weeks with 15 saves in Friday’s victory, while D.J. Kohler made 21 saves Saturday.

The netminders’ biggest help on defense may be a strong offensive attack. The Illini are outscoring their opponents, averaging 5.9 goals per game against 1.7 goals allowed this season.

“It’s the biggest relief knowing that, no matter how many I let in, there will be one more on our side of the scoreboard,” Burda said. “I’ve never had anything like it.”

Kent State goaltender David Gregory brought an unorthodox style to the Ice Arena, often moving well outside of the crease to play the puck. Ultimately, however, it did little to offset the Orange and Blue’s goal-scoring efficiency.

“He got it done in his own way, but no one’s going to stop us,” Burda said.

Illinois received all 44 first-place votes in the latest American Collegiate Hockey Association poll, ahead of No. 2 Penn State and No. 3 Lindenwood, teams that the Illini swept this season. However, head coach Chad Cassel insisted his team is far from perfect, no matter what the record says.

“We played so well (Friday), but we took a lot of bad penalties (Saturday) and had a lot of bad turnovers,” Cassel said. “The good thing is we still found a way to win.”

With next week’s series against rival Ohio looming, the Illini are fully aware that they are capable of producing a historic season.

“I’m just glad to be a part of it,” Burda said.