Illini hockey sweeps NIU with ease

By Sean Neumann

Everything went as planned for the Illini hockey team this weekend.

No. 19 Illinois (13-11-1) swept Northern Illinois, shutting out the Huskies 5-0 on Friday night before then exploding for a 17-3 victory on Saturday.

Northern Illinois, a lower tier Division-II team, was facing an uphill battle all weekend. The Huskies had eight injured players and were forced to play with only 12 skaters and two goaltenders throughout the weekend.

Northern Illinois assistant coach Mike Reporto said the Huskies’ had an impossible task, playing against a D-I Illini team with only 14 players on the bench.

“It’s extremely difficult just because you’ve got guys that haven’t been playing together over the season and it mixes up the culture and dynamics of the team,” Reporto said. “It really just kind of messes everything up.”

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Reporto said the Huskies coaching staff thought senior goaltender Nick Bonin played great in both games, stopping 87 shots throughout the five periods he played this weekend.

“It’s not an easy task being the goalie, especially being thin on the back end,” Reporto said. “We only had four defenders the whole weekend, which makes it tough. Especially with a powerhouse offense like the Illini have.”

The Illini outshot the Huskies 116-29 throughout the weekend, outscoring them by 20 goals (23-3).

Freshman winger Matt Flosi earned his first career hat trick on Saturday night and was just one of 13 Illini goal scorers on Saturday night.

“It’s an exciting feeling,” Flosi said. “It’s definitely an accomplishment that I’m proud of.”

Illinois’ 23 goals this weekend are just two shy of what it has put up in its last 10 games (25). The Illini’s 74 shots against Northern Illinois on Saturday night were 35 more than they had in both games against Robert Morris last weekend combined (39).

Head coach Nick Fabbrini wasn’t satisfied with the team’s 5-0 shutout on Friday night but was happy with the team’s 17-3 rout on Saturday.

“It’s a lot more fun scoring goals than not scoring goals,” Fabbrini said Saturday night. “It was nice to see us be hungry all night tonight.”

Illini captain Austin Bostock, who had two goals and three assists on Saturday night, said the Illini players were simply enjoying themselves on the ice.

“It was fun,” Bostock said. “It’s almost like a team building game. It was great to be apart of and great to play in.”

Illinois’ offensive exhibit came without the team’s leading goal scorer John Olen (12 goals, 9 assists).

Olen will return to the team in January, when the Illini (13-11-1) look to rebound after a tough first half of the season.

Fabbrini said it was important for other Illini players to get on the score sheet against Northern Illinois, as the team will need to string together wins come the second half of the season in order to qualify for the ACHA National Tournament.

“When we’ve got multiple guys producing, teams can’t key in on just one guy,” Fabbrini said. “Getting him back, along with these guys heating up now, I like our chances here going forward.”

Sean can be reached at [email protected] and @Neumannthehuman.