The Illini find success in spreading the puck


Kevin Vongnaphone | Senior photo

Illinois’ Austin Zima (3) moves the puck away from Illinois’ goal during the Ohio hockey game at the Ice Arena on Friday, October 24, 2014. The Illini won 2-1.

By Ethan Swanson

The Illinois hockey team can put up big numbers in the offensive zone, scoring six goals or more in three of its first six games.

Who scores those goals, however, varies for the Illini.

Out of the 24 non-goaltender position players on Illinois’ active roster, 13 have already scored a goal and 18 have registered a point so far this season.SO

Only five players have more than one goal — junior Josh Belmont leads the team with four, while sophomores Grant Stueve and Eric Cruickshank each have three.SO

“I’d definitely say a strength of our team is our depth,” senior John Olen said.CC “We’ve a good mix of young talent and a couple veterans we can lean on time to time. Almost everyone on this team can put the puck in the net.”

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    Big Problems Away From the “Big Pond”

    It’s no secret the Illini love their home ice advantage, making opponents cover 30 extra feet of ice than on a regulation rink.SO

    Although, what helps Illinois at home may actually be hurting them on the road.

    The Illini are 0-2 outside their home state, including a 0-7 shutout loss at Oklahoma on Sept. 26.SO Illinois is averaging nearly five fewer goals away than at home or neutral site.

    “Coming into smaller rinks, we just have to play simple,” Cruickshank said.SO “A lot of times we try to do a little too much and ended up having a large amount of turnovers. We just get pucks deep and make the defense pivot, put pressure on them to make mistakes and create opportunities.”

    Defense to Offense

    Even with injuries to starting defensemen Joey Caprio and Aaron Dusek, the Illini defensive zone managed not only to allow two total goals in two games but also to contribute a substantial amount on the offensive front.SO

    Illini defensemen Austin Zima and Connor Robbs both tallied a goal against Alabama this past weekend, giving Zima his third point of the season.SO

    Out of the four listed defensemen on the Illinois roster that have played in all six games of the season, two have scored at least one goal and all have registered at least one point.

    “Our defense does a great job chipping in offensively by moving their feet and getting floor checks,” head coach Nick Fabbrini said.SO “When we’re turning pucks over and using our speed to get it into the offensive zone, that’s when we’re at our best.”

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