Illini grab final spot in ACHAs

By Sean Neumann

The Illinois hockey team grabbed the final spot in the ACHA National Tournament.

The No. 19 ranked Illini heard their name called during the ACHA Selection Show, bumping out No. 18 Buffalo.

Illinois will enter the tournament as the 18 seed and will face Arizona, the 15 seed (17-19). The Wildcats are one of the only three teams in the tournament with a losing record.

“I’m so speechless and so thankful,” captain Austin Bostock said. “We’re catching a little bit of wind here at the right time.”

Bostock said the tension among players prior to the announcement “could be cut with a knife” before breaking into an ecstatic celebration. 

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“Everyone was silent and was gripping on to each other, and as soon as they said No. 18 Illinois, I think the roof came down,” Bostock said.

Illinois had five wins over top-10 teams this season and played one of the toughest schedules in the nation.

The Illini (19-16-2) have come together well since being swept by No. 16 Lindenwood in early January. The team has a 6-3-1 record in its last 10 games, including wins over then-No. 4 Ohio and defending national champions Minot State, who were ranked No. 7 at the time.

Illinois also beat CSCHL conference rival Indiana by a combined scored of 18-3 last weekend.

The ACHA National Tournament is composed of 20 teams. Despite being ranked No. 19, Illinois was fighting for a spot in the tournament since No. 22 West Virginia and an unranked Syracuse team both earned auto-bids for winning their regular season conference title.

“Being the 18 seed actually helps us, because we’re going to play teams that are ranked higher than us and they’re not going to know what hit them,” Bostock said. “I think you’re going to find that our attitude going forward is that nobody’s ready for us.”