Hockey looking for consistency

Illinois senior Jordan Pringle controls the puck against Michigan-Dearborn at the Ice Arena on Nov. 15. This weekend the hockey club plays Eastern Michigan at home Friday and Saturday hoping to close the semester on a winning note. Brennan Caughron

By Alex Paull

As the Illini come to the checkpoint of their 2008-09 campaign, they arrive with the same lingering problems – inconsistent play and a lack of effort.

With only a pair of games left before winter break, head coach Chad Cassel knows that several things, aside from effort, will need to change. The Illini (14-2-0) finish the first semester with back-to-back games at home against Eastern Michigan (4-13-0) starting Friday night.

In the team’s last series, nearly two weeks ago, the Illini rode into No. 2-ranked Lindenwood University to prove they were worthy of their No. 1 ranking and to create some momentum. Instead, they left Lindenwood with a split in the series and growing disappointment about their Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde-like play.

“I think for me, the most disappointing part was, I thought we played really well on Friday, and then Saturday, it was the complete opposite,” head coach Chad Cassel said. “Friday we came out with a lot of energy, everyone played well, (goalie Mike) Burda was outstanding in the net. And then on Saturday, there was no energy, and we took bad penalties.”

Heading into the weekend series, Illinois must focus on minimizing penalties.

“Saturday night was one of the worst games I can remember in a long time as far as taking bad penalties,” Cassel said following the Lindenwood series. “Against a good team, on the road, you just can’t do that and expect to win.”

In the meantime, since that disappointing loss to Lindenwood on Nov. 22, the Illini have been practicing to address and fix these problems. They aren’t focused on changing their game plan, just on increasing the effort and energy levels to execute the plans successfully.

“This whole week in practice has been concentrated on effort and playing a whole 60 minutes,” senior captain Jordan Pringle said. “We can’t come out and play a good first period and then take the rest of the game off.”

Coach Cassel knows it will be important for them to end the semester on a high note and hopes the players will take what they learned from the Lindenwood series and feed off of it for the rest of the season.

“With a game of that magnitude, if you can’t be excited to play in that game, how can you be excited to play in any game?” Cassel said. “Obviously we have to move on from it, but you have to learn from it. It’s a feeling hopefully they don’t want to have again because it was just an embarrassing part on our effort and it’s something that just can’t happen again.”

Pringle thinks the players are on the same page as the coach, and are ready to come out and show it to the home fans heading into the break.

“They’re the last two games of the semester, and we have about three weeks off after that, so I think guys will be excited to play, especially playing= at home,” Pringle said.