Hockey club named national champions

By Wes Anderson

A dream season came to a perfect end for the Illinois hockey club at the American Collegiate Hockey Association National Championships in Rochester, N.Y. A 4-2 victory over No. 2 Lindenwood in the tournament finals on Wednesday night secured the Murdoch Cup and an unblemished 38-0-0 record.

Senior center Drew Heredia scored twice in his final game as the Illini won their second national championship and first-ever perfect season.

The championship game was the fifth meeting between the two teams this season and the third time the top-ranked Illini have played the nation’s No. 2-ranked team.

In their bid to upset the nation’s top ranked team, it was the Lions who struck first in the tournament final, as Lindenwood forward Larry Kopecky scored 10 minutes into the first period.

Illinois would storm back, however, rattling off three unanswered goals to assume a 3-1 lead, which lasted until a late second period goal from Lions forward Travis Bokina, keeping the game close entering the final 20 minutes.

Neither team found a clear advantage in the third period until a precise Johnny Liang pass to Tom Connell set up a backhanded shot that found the net and gave the Illini a 4-2 lead.

From there, Illinois kept its conference rival at bay, as goaltender Mike Burda and the Illini defense preserved the two-goal lead despite the Lions desperate attempts to score in the final minutes with their goaltender pulled.

The mostly pro-Illini crowd erupted after the final buzzer sounded, chanting “38-0!” as the Illinois players stormed the ice.

Heredia, the team’s captain, was named the tournament’s most valuable player after the victory, while Brad Hoelzer and Liang were named to the first all-tournament team and Burda earned second all-tournament team honors.

Head coach Chad Cassel won his second national title in his 11th season with the team, the first coming in 2005.