Illini hockey loses in 1st round of in CSCHL tournament

By Joey Figueroa

It was a short stay in St. Charles, Mo., for the Illinois hockey team.

The No. 18 Illini (19-17-2) weren’t able to advance in the CSCHL tournament after getting blown out 10-3 by the host of the tournament, No. 17 Lindenwood (13-19-2). After losing three times to Lindenwood during the regular season by an average margin of four goals, the Illini still weren’t able to tame the Lions in the playoffs.

“It seems like they’ve had our number all season,” senior captain Austin Bostock said. “They’re kind of the one team we haven’t been able to figure out, so hopefully we get another shot in Delaware. We owe these guys.”

The Illini were trailing just 3-2 midway through the second period, but the Lions scored two goals to close out the period and gained complete control from there. Lindenwood outscored Illinois 5-1 in the final period alone and advanced to the second round of the tournament easily.

Despite the wide scoring disparity, head coach Nick Fabbrini wasn’t upset with the Illini’s play, especially in the beginning of the game.

“I thought we played pretty well for the first 40 minutes,” Fabbrini said. “Obviously, we didn’t do everything right giving up 10 goals, but our energy level was where it should have been and we created more than enough chances to be in the game. We just didn’t capitalize.”

The first period closed with a 1-1 tie, as sophomore forward Yoshi Shibata responded just two minutes following Lindenwood’s first goal. The Lions opened the second period with two scores, but junior forward Kyle Varzino answered their push quickly to make it a 3-2 game before things began to fall apart.

After the Lions’ eighth goal, senior goaltender Nick Clarke was pulled and sophomore goalie Joe Olen took over for the rest of the game.

“The game was over at that point,” Fabbrini said. “Things just weren’t going our way at all, and there really wasn’t much of a point of having him in there anymore.”

Illinois outshot Lindenwood 46-33 for the game, but turnovers and penalties were an issue. Lindenwood had two power play goals and plenty of breakaway scoring chances it took advantage of.

“We had some uncharacteristic turnovers in the second period, which gave them a couple goals,” Bostock said. “They finished all their chances. They had a couple breakaways and they scored, we had a couple breakaways and we didn’t score. Our shots hit the post and posted out and their shots hit the post and posted in.”

Moving forward, Fabbrini doesn’t think the Illini will lose any momentum going into nationals in the beginning of March and wants the team to focus on what’s ahead of them, not the tough tournament loss.

“It’s just one game,” Fabbrini said. “It’s kind of a bad time to not have things go our way, but that’s the way we have to look at it. It doesn’t matter if we would have lost 1-0 or the way that we did. A loss is a loss in that situation. We just have to put it behind us and move on.”

Joey can be reached at [email protected] and @joeyfigueroa3.