Illini’s power play too much for Michigan-Dearborn

Erica Magda

Erica Magda

By Alex Paull

Three weeks ago, when the hockey team lost for the first time in nearly two seasons to Central Oklahoma, the team received its first reality check – the Illini would have to pick up their effort and execution if they wanted to keep their No. 1 ranking.

“We changed a few lines around, but nothing major,” head coach Chad Cassel said. “The losses came because we did not work really hard. We had a couple good individual efforts but that was it, everyone else took the night off.”

The Illini (13-1-0) took Cassel’s message to heart this weekend, scoring early and often in two wins by scores of 9-1 on Friday and 10-1 on Saturday. The Illini outshot the Michigan-Dearborn Wolves on the weekend, 103-42.

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Hockey beats Michigan-Dearborn

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“We did a better job of not relying on one or two guys and having all four lines producing,” Cassel added.

Defenseman Brad Hoelzer contributed four goals in Saturday’s game, while captain Jordan Pringle and Johnny Liang tallied five and seven points, respectively, in the series.

“I feel good about the effort,” Hoelzer said. “Our power play was clicking on all cylinders and hopefully we continue going with that.”

Executing on power-play chances was a concern the team had coming into the series, but the team was pleased with the results. The Illini converted eight of 13 power-play opportunities to key their attack.

“The power play was definitely our main focus,” Pringle said. “We work on it every week in practice, and we felt we didn’t do a good job in our loss. It has always been a big part of our success, and this weekend definitely was a success.”

The Illini had their fair share of scuffles in the series but maintained their discipline by only committing two penalties.

“We talk a lot about staying disciplined and doing all the little things,” Coach Cassel said. “We had a couple of bad penalties, but overall it was good. You just can’t take bad penalties and expect to win.”

Lost in the barrage of Illini scoring was forward Jason Nemeth’s move into sole possession of 10th place on the Illini’s career points list with 188 points.

“It’s very exciting and the coolest thing ever,” Nemeth said. “I have played with my linemates my whole career, and they have helped me a lot. I really don’t care that much, it’s more about winning games with my teammates and coming to practice with them. My main goal is not to score a lot of points; it is to win a National Championship.”

The Illini will have a huge challenge next weekend in their pursuit of a National Championship, as they hit the road to take on No. 2-ranked Lindenwood University.

“I felt like our defensemen struggled all weekend with coverage and bad turnovers,” said Coach Cassel. “We have to get better defensively because Lindenwood is a little more gifted offensively than Dearborn.”