Illini hockey marks the return of Heredia with win

How big of an impact did the return of forward JJ Heredia have on the Illinois hockey team?

Just two points- the difference in the Illini’s win against Michigan-Dearborn on Friday.

In their opening game of the CSCHL Tournament at Iowa State, the Illini took down the Wolves 5-3 and punched their ticket to the second round.

Controlling a majority of the action, Illinois dominated Michigan-Dearborn much more than the score indicated.

Heredia got the scoring started for the Illini eight minutes into the game when he shielded the smaller Wolves defender and made a quick half-turn towards the net and fired one past Wolves goaltender Paul Petrous.

Forward Sam Fatigato would double the lead for the Illini three minutes into the middle frame with his first goal of the season. Picking off a bad Michigan-Dearborn pass in the neutral zone, Fatigato skated in past the Wolves Blue line, faked a back-pass and quickly slipped a shot through the legs of the unsuspecting Petrous.

Two minutes later, the Wolves would answer back with incredible goal by forward Matt McGraig. Receiving a full-rink pass by Anthony Rini that somehow found it’s way through Illini defenders Gabe Heller and Pierce Butler, McGraig corralled the puck at the Illinois blue-line and walked in on Mike Burda to cut the deficit to one.

Illini forward Daniel Cohen would put the Illini up two again a minute later to close out the scoring of the middle period before both squads traded two goals apiece in the third period.

Wolves forward Shawn Wilson would strike first, before Illini forward Matt Jennings and Michigan-Dearborn’s Rini traded goals midway through the period.

Illini forward Rob Deubel would put the game away with an empty-net goal twenty seconds left when he beat two Wolves defenders to a puck on the near board and made a nice wrap-around move at the net to tally Illinois’ fifth goal.

The power-play unit continued to struggle for the Illini as the team squandered five opportunities to cash in on, including one in which a penalty of their own negated an opportunity.

Goaltender Mike Burda stopped 28 shots on the day, including a flurry of shots in the second period that easily saved a couple of goals.

Waiting for Illinois in the second round will be the Lindenwood Lions, who beat Western Michigan 6-3 earlier in the day. The time of the game is set for 4 p.m., and you can hear all the action on WPGU 107.1 FM or www.the217.com/wpgu.