Injuries forcing Illini hockey players to step up on both ends of the ice

When sophomore forward Austin Bostock and senior defenseman Chris Peter went down with injuries Saturday night, it was clear that the Illinois hockey team had lost a huge part of its offense and defense.

Bostock had been leading the Illini in points and Peter was second in points on the team among defensemen. Both are slated to miss this weekend’s home series against No. 3 Lindenwood, leaving the door wide open for the rest of the team to step up. Senior forward Joe Sullivan, third on the team in points, is also sitting out Friday’s game due to suspension.

Sophomore forward Eddie Quagliata said the upcoming weeks will be a challenge without two of the team’s premier players.

“To lose two of our top players like Bostock and Peter is awfully hard,” Quagliata said. “But other guys are going to have the opportunity to step in and make a significant impact to help the team out.”

Bostock said the team will look to its experience to get through the season’s final weeks.

“Lately, it’s been great to see the whole team playing better,” Bostock said. “In this last stretch before nationals, we’re going to have to rely on some of our older guys. They’ve been through these playoff tournaments before, and they know what it takes to finish strong.”

Junior forward Scott Barrera will have to continue his hot streak in points with Bostock out. Barrera currently has 24 points in 27 games and was able to rack up three assists in last weekend’s pair of games against Robert Morris.

Senior forward Mike Ursitti thinks the bigger onus will be on the defense to step up.

“All of our defense is going to have to step up,” Ursitti said. “At forward, we have a lot more depth to cover the loss of Bostock and Sullivan, but we are thin on the back end. So guys like (J.T.) Turner and Koko (Ricky Kokoszka) are going to have to be up for the challenge.”

It is certain that not only will younger players like freshman defensemen Turner and Kokoszka have to step up, but experienced players like senior defensemen Justin Wirt and junior Mike Evans will have to help fill the void. Wirt and Evans are two of six Illini who have played in every game this season. They will likely log huge minutes on the blue line in Peter’s absence.

“Obviously Chris is one of our leaders and a top defenseman,” Bostock said. “It’s never good for a team to lose multiple guys in a short amount of time. I think our team has enough depth and heart to push through while we recover.”