Illini alumni face off over weekend

By Wes Anderson

During last weekend’s series against Ohio, former Illinois hockey greats had the chance to return to “The Big Pond” and play in the annual alumni game, a two-period scrimmage in which the Orange team defeated the Blue 7-5. Among those lacing up their skates were former head coach Bob Turngren, 2007 graduate Marshall Chubirka, and head coach Chad Cassel, who said he “didn’t last very long out there,” wearing his equipment for the first time in two years.

Starting in goal for the Orange team was Mike DeGeorge, the American Collegiate Hockey Association’s First Team All-American at goaltender last season. After the series, The Daily Illini caught up with DeGeorge to talk about the Illini’s current netminders and their quest for a perfect season.

Daily Illini: When I talk to (Illini goaltenders) Mike Burda and D.J. Kohler, it seems you always come up in the conversation. What were the kinds of things you taught them last season when you were a senior and they were freshmen?

Mike DeGeorge: Well, they were both quick learners and they worked really hard in practice, so we all kind of fed off each other. They worked so hard in practice that it kind of made my job tougher, made me work harder. I actually learned a lot from them.

It’s tough out there not having a goalie coach in practices, so you’ve got to have an open interaction where you’re teaching each other. They had open ears, I had open ears, so it was just a great relationship.

DI: And now, Burda and Kohler have been fighting for the starting goaltender job for a good part of the season.

MD: Unfortunately, they’re often in a competitive situation against each other, but neither of them have lost a game so they’re really feeding off each other’s energy.

DI: What’s your take on this season’s 25-0-0 record?

MD: Spectacular. It’s unbelievable. I don’t even think they can believe it, let alone the fans. But, you know, these guys work hard, from the rookies on up. I mean, (Freshman winger Daniel Cohen) came in here (Saturday) and had two goals in the shootout. Everybody’s contributing.

DI: How does this year’s team stack up to the ACHA national championship team you were a part of in 2005?

MD: I think (this year’s team) has by far more talent. More importantly, though, you see that cohesive unit that we had my sophomore year. It doesn’t matter how much talent you have, it’s about how hard you work. It matters whether or not you’re there backing up the guy behind you.

These guys really play for each other. I think everybody can see it, from the bench on up to the fans.