Illini player returns to former home ice



By Tony Donisch

This weekend is just another couple of games in the season for most of the Illini players. But for Rob Deubel, a Woodridge, Ill., native, it’s more than that – he wants bragging rights.

At this time last year, the junior forward was on the ice wearing Central Oklahoma bronze and blue. He’ll return to his former college with some new colors when the undefeated Orange and Blue take a 10-hour bus ride to face the No. 16 Bronchos (5-1-1).

“I’ve been looking forward to these games since the schedule came out,” Deubel said. “It should be exciting. It’ll be fun to see the guys and coaches. I’m sure they’ll be gunning for me.”

He played during the first semester of the Bronchos’ 14-19-5 season, scoring five goals and adding 11 assists in 21 games. He has contributed so far in his first season with the Illini, scoring three goals in seven games. In his second game played, he notched his first multi-goal game with two goals in the win against Michigan State.

Even after the transfer, he still keeps in touch with some of his former teammates, and with the big games looming, the topic of conversation has turned to more important matters.

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“There’s still a little bit of trash talk,” Deubel said. “All week up until this point we’ve been talking back and forth.”

Last year, Central Oklahoma visited the “Big Pond” and left without a goal, losing 7-0 and 4-0. Both Illinois goaltenders, Mike Burda and D.J. Kohler, shut out the Bronchos.

This year, the opposing players have merit to their trash talk. The Bronchos have started the season on fire and own a three-game winning streak, with their only loss coming against No. 2 Lindenwood. Two weeks ago, they defeated No. 2 Rhode Island in a shootout to win the ACHA Division I National Showcase.

Duebel will provide more help than just on the ice for Illinois. His knowledge of the team last year could prove pivotal in helping the Illini stop the red-hot Bronchos on the road.

“I’m familiar with 90 percent of the guys, their tendencies, their system,” Deubel said. “It’s better than going in blind. I’ll tell (my teammates) what to look for, what certain guys’ tendencies are, just things to look for to take advantage.”

The trek to Edmund, Okla., is the second road trip of the season for the Illini.

They left Thursday night for Friday’s game and plan to stay in a hotel for the night. Two weeks ago, the team traveled to Kent State on the same day and swept the Golden Flashes in the weekend series, 2-0 and 13-1. With an extra day of rest after the long trip, head coach Chad Cassel and the players don’t foresee it causing a roadblock in their perfect season or Rob Deubel’s bragging rights.

“It’s just kind of tough not moving for that long,” junior forward Tom Connell said. “You just feel tired. I feel it (affected us) against Kent State. We went right there from the bus, didn’t stay in a hotel. (This time) we’re leaving Thursday so we’ll have plenty of time. It shouldn’t be a problem.”