Hockey team looks for consistency midway through the season

By Daniel Dexter

The Illinois hockey team (13-7-1) is midway through an up and down season.

The Illini are currently in third place in their division and have had a chance to play a series against every team in the CSCHL with mixed results. The team won at least one game against every team in the division except for Lindenwood, which sits atop the CSCHL.

The team won nine of its first 10 games of the regular season before going on a three-game losing streak. Head coach Nick Fabbrini attributed the losses the team had to poor defense that the team needs to improve upon if it wants to be successful during the playoffs.

“There were times we had breakdowns and when you play against great teams at Nationals, the big games we want to play in, they make you pay for breakdowns,” Fabbrini said. “That’s going to be a point of emphasis for us going forward and we’re going to continue to work on small things, the details. That’s really what separates good teams in tournament play is details and special teams.”

Center John Olen leads the team with 20 points followed by freshman wings Eric Cruickshank and James Mcging, who each have 17 points, respectively.

Those three, amongst others, have contributed to the strong offense and special teams the Illini have displayed this season. Fabbrini believes that the team’s strength is its speed, which it can take advantage of on its large home rink.

“We have the kind of depth at forward that when all four lines are clicking, we can play all four lines,” Fabbrini said. “Our top line, when they’re going, they’re as good as any line out there I think.”

The Illini have also had impressive defensive play from goaltender Joe Olen, who Fabbrini has called one of the best goaltenders in the league.

The team’s offense and defense was clicking this season in its signature series sweep against Iowa State. The Illini kept their emotions in-check in a physical series in front of a packed ice arena crowd and came away with six crucial points.

Moving forward, Fabbrini hopes to see more consistency from his team if it wants accomplish its goals of making a run in the playoffs in the spring.

“I think that we have the opportunity to do some great things here this year,” Fabbrini said. “If we can find some consistency in our game, offensively and defensively, and in our decision making, I think that we’ve got the tools and the pieces to put a good run together in both the league championship and league tournament, to get ready for Nationals.”

Daniel can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @ddexter23.