Illinois hockey needs to rely on senior leadership


Illinois’ head coach Nick Fabbrini observes his team during the game versus Aurora University at the Ice Arena on Friday.

The Illini did not have much momentum in the first and second periods during Saturday’s loss to Aurora. In the third period, however, Illinois looked more aggressive and nearly mounted a comeback.

Head coach Nick Fabbrini credits his team’s senior leadership with sparking the third period run.

“A lot of it came from the older guys on the team,” Fabbrini said. “We’ve got pretty good senior leadership and I know that they were fired up in between periods and after the game. I think some pride took over.”

Senior forward Jacob Matysiak was one of the leaders that started the third period rally.

“We got the boys together on the bench and I told them, ‘Let’s get a goal right here,’ we ended up getting two quick goals, which was huge,” Matysiak said. “(In the) third period, we kind of regrouped, we knew their backs were against the wall and they knew we were coming and we did bring it for a little bit, but it was just too late in the game.”

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Illini unhappy with split at home

Friday’s win snapped a three-game losing streak for Illinois. After taking Friday’s game, the Illini hoped to win on Saturday and complete the sweep against Aurora.

“I thought we should have smoked them both games,” Matysiak said.

Matysiak felt the only difference in Friday and Saturday’s games was that Aurora was more aggressive on Saturday.

“We were soft all-around and they won pretty much every battle up to the second period,” Matysiak said. “We didn’t want it as much as the other team did.”

Splitting a series at home is something the Illini try to avoid, according to Fabbrini.

“Nobody’s happy,” Fabbrini said. “Splits are not what we’re looking for, especially at home. We’re too good of a team to come out and play like this, especially in front of our home fans.”

The Illini’s next opportunity at home will be this weekend against Iowa State.

Players face less ice time

After committing only five penalties in Friday night’s win over Aurora, the Illini were penalized 11 times in Saturday’s 7-4 loss.

Three of Aurora’s seven goals came off of power plays. Fabbrini felt that having some of his top players in the penalty box hurts his team’s ability to get more shots on goal.

In a game where tensions ran high, Fabbrini thought his team lost composure, and as a result, committed ill-advised penalties. To solve this problem, Fabbrini thinks he must start limiting ice time for some of his players.

“The only thing that changes decision-making around here is lack of playing time,” Fabbrini said.

Matt can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @MattGertsmeier.