Illini hockey ends streak, finishes 16-2

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Brennan Caughron

By Tony Donisch

Saying this year’s Illinois hockey team faced high expectations heading into this semester would be an understatement.

Following last season’s perfect 38-0-0 campaign in which the team became CSCHL regular-season and playoff Champions and ACHA National Champions, every win was no longer just a win – each extended a winning streak that was unheard of in club hockey.

Cruising through the first eight games of the season with ease was expected, but struggling with a Central Oklahoma team that the Illini dominated last year, 7-0 and 4-0, was not.

In the first game of the away series against Central Oklahoma, the Illini erased a two-goal deficit with three goals in the final eight minutes to win 4-3 and keep the streak alive.

In game two, they again found themselves behind, this time by three goals in the third period. The Illini scored two goals to get within one with five minutes left, but they couldn’t match their heroics of the previous night and lost 6-4, snapping their 47-game winning streak.

After beating the top club teams in the nation time and time again last season, the team was shocked.

“We were all kind of stunned that we actually lost a game,” junior center JJ Heredia said. “Honestly, I didn’t think we would lose to Central Oklahoma. I don’t think a lot of the guys did, so maybe that’s part of the reason. We took them a little light.”

With the end to a memorable run behind them, the players amped up their efforts and went on a tear against Robert Morris and Michigan-Dearborn, winning the four games.

After the second loss of the season came to No. 2-ranked Lindenwood in a series split, the Illini swept Eastern Michigan to finish up the semester with a record of 16-2-0 overall and 9-1-0 in CSCHL play.