Hockey advances in ACHA tourney with 4-goal effort

By Alex Paull

Before the carbon monoxide scare grabbed the headlines at the ACHA National Tournament, the Illinois hockey team bounced the University of Central Oklahoma from the tourney with a 4-1 win on Saturday.

Jitters affected both teams early on in the first period as neither team seized control of the game. With less than six minutes left in the period, however, the Illini appeared to break the deadlocked game after a pile-up in front of the net resulted with the puck crossing the goal line.

After the Illini had already celebrated the goal and prepared for the next face-off, the referees waived the goal off. With coaches and players up in arms about the reversed call, the wave-off seemed to be the beginning of a series of questionable calls and bad non-calls that the referees made throughout the game.

“The ref initially signaled it a goal but told me he wasn’t 100 percent sure whether it was a goal or not, so he waved it off, even though he initially ruled it a goal,” head coach Chad Cassel said. “That’s what didn’t really make sense to me, but it’s nothing I could do anything about and the guys were able to stay focused mentally and move on.”

By the second period, though, the Illini appeared to not only move on from the officiating, but feed off it. On their way to notching two power-play goals in the period, Illinois bombarded Broncos goalie Cory McGlone with 23 shots while Central Oklahoma garnered only 10.

“Sometimes the dirty play gets you going and makes you want to beat the other team that much more,” captain Jordan Pringle said.

The first power-play goal came three minutes into the second period off the stick of Pringle. With assists from forwards Johnny Liang and Tim Gilbert, Pringle fired a shot upstairs past McGlone’s left shoulder.

Six minutes later, JJ Heredia followed suit on the power play, lighting the lamp on a one-timer from Pringle.

Central Oklahoma made one final push in the third period when forward Eric Jansen redirected a shot over the right shoulder of Illini goalie Mike Burda to cut the deficit to one, but that was all Burda would allow. Making one sharp save after another, Burda and the defense kept the Broncos offense at bay for a majority of the game.

“Burda and the defense played excellent,” forward Jason Nemeth said. “That is what we need all week from them.”

Though the one goal would be all the Broncos would muster against Burda, they weren’t done scoring for the day.

Less than two minutes later, Central Oklahoma forward Alex Jackson scooped a loose puck up and accidentally dumped it into his own goal to put the Illini up by two. Illini forward Mark Ergun was credited with the goal.

Minutes later, Illini forward Daniel Cohen retrieved a loose puck from the Broncos corner and threw it at the net, where it bounced off McGlone’s skate and into the goal.

Despite the quick exit from the rink after the win due to the carbon monoxide scare, the importance of getting the first win under their belts wasn’t lost on the Illini as they move forward in the tournament.

“It was a game that I was honestly nervous about,” Pringle said. “They were a team that had snapped our 47-game winning streak and they were going to play with a lot of confidence knowing they could beat us. But we came out with a lot of effort from top to bottom. We did everything that we wanted so we are happy going into the next game.”

The Illini will face the winner of Sunday’s rescheduled 8:30 p.m. game between Kent State and Oklahoma on Monday. The time of the game is to be determined.