No. 14 Robert Morris seeking 1st win at Big Pond versus No. 10 Illini hockey

Just over nine months ago, the Robert Morris University Eagles triumphed for the first time against Illinois, 3-2, in Bensenville, Ill.

This season, No. 14 Robert Morris is looking to defeat the No. 10 Illini for the first time ever at the Big Pond.

The Eagles are undefeated on the season, and the Orange and Blue are expecting a tough matchup.

“We’re gonna have our hands full,” Illinois head coach Chad Cassel said. “We’re going to have to play well, and we know that. It’s two games that we need to have, and it’s important that we take care of business at home.”

The Illini (10-1-1) will have to take care of that business without budding star Angelo Sakellaropoulos in net, who is sidelined with a partially torn MCL.

“We’re not exactly sure how long he’s going to be out,” Cassel said. “We hope to have him back for Lindenwood next weekend.”

After struggling to bury goals during the last two home weekends against Iowa State and Indiana, the Illini believe those struggles may have been overcome last weekend on the road against the Hoosiers.

“Hopefully we’re on a bit of a roll right now,” Cassel said. “I think we’ll do a better job of finishing. Our power play has once again been the focus this week in practice.”

A reinforcement could come to the aid of the Illinois’ special teams.

Defenseman Justin Wirt may return this weekend after being sidelined with a shoulder injury.

Before he went down, Wirt was the power play quarterback who recorded six points (two goals, four assists) in seven games.

“Honestly, I just love to shoot it,” Wirt said. “That’s the way our power play is run — we get shots from the point and bury rebounds. That’s my strength, and I hope I can help the team do that.”

Another point man on the power play is junior defenseman Chris Peter, who will face his old teammates for first time as an Illini. Peter played as a Robert Morris Eagle the past two seasons before transferring to Illinois, and despite this being a normal league game, it has more significant implications for the Bartlett, Ill., native.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Peter said. “I played with a lot of these guys for two years. The type of camaraderie you develop with those guys over two years is something you can’t get anywhere else.”

Peter, who has seven points on the year, has not recorded one in nearly two weeks. Nevertheless, he said he’s prepared to make a statement against his former team this weekend.

“These are two games that I’d never want to lose,” Peter said. “I’m going to leave everything I have out on the ice.”

One Eagle that Peter has not seen yet is Gehritt Sargis, who is tied for third in goal scoring in the ACHA with 12. Thefreshman from Midlothian, Ill., is also tied for sixth in the country with 22 total points, 10 more than any Illinois player.

Although he is having a great year to date, the Illini have to tune up their own game if they wish to be successful.

“We’re working on a lot of things on our end,” Cassel said. “When you’re playing better teams, and Robert Morris is in that category, special teams usually decides the game.”