Illini sweep weekend after dropping in polls

The Illini hockey team dropped one spot in the rankings before two weekend matches against Eastern Michigan, leaving them at No. 6 in the ACHA.

Jumping ahead of the Illini was CSCHL foe Iowa State, which had a lesser 3-3 record.

The perceived slight from voters did not sit well with the Illini (6-0) as they took out their frustrations on former CSCHL opponent, Eastern Michigan.

The Illini won both games in their first road trip of 2010 and have not lost in any of their first away contests since 2000.

“It’s very encouraging to get that kind of an effort on the road,” head coach Chad Cassel said. “Especially when you get it on the first road trip of the season.”

Illinois scored five goals in each game and once again, the scoring was balanced across the board, with 14 different players registering a point. The most noticeable offensive threats for the Illini were junior forward Mike McBride, who had two goals and an assist on the weekend, and senior forward Daniel Cohen, who finished with a goal and two assists.

“They both played great,” Cassel said. “Dan and Mike have been playing well for us all year and those are two guys that are going to have to step up and produce for us to have success.”

Cohen has scored a point in every game this season, leaving him tied with his linemate Brandon Targett for the team lead in points with 10. The line of Cohen, Targett and Eddie Quagliata dominated Eastern Michigan and registered a combined seven points in both games.

“Getting a good breakout with Eddie and Targett, getting a good dump into the offensive zone, and working hard down low to cycle and use one another as options in the offensive zone leads to shots on goal for us,” Cohen said. “And I’ve been fortunate to have a couple of them go in.”

After a 5-3 win Friday evening, the Illini’s Saturday afternoon encore was a 5-0 shutout in a tilt that was their most complete performance of the year.

“The last couple of weeks, Saturday games haven’t been as strong for us,” said captain Tim Gilbert, who scored his first goal of the year in Saturday’s contest. “It was an all out team effort.”

Another first for the Illini was the team’s first shutout of the season, captured by sophomore goaltender Angelo Sakellaropoulos in just his second career start.

“We really controlled play all night, and Angelo didn’t really get tested all that much. But when he did, he made some big saves,” Cassel said. “It’s really difficult for a goaltender to stand down there for that long and not see any shots and then get a high quality chance. He played well.”

CSCHL league games begin next week against Indiana and the 6-0 Illini understand there is still work to be done if they want to win a CSCHL crown.

“Our team has a lot of speed, and when we’re successful it starts with our defense,” Cohen said. “If we can focus defensively, the offense will come and hopefully a good amount of wins.”