Illinois hockey gets back on track against Indiana

By Cole Henke

Tweet: @IlliniHockey blew out Indiana on Saturday to complete the weekend sweepBy Cole Henke

The Illinois hockey team didn’t underestimate its inferior opponent this weekend.ch this stat after this needs to be checked

With Indiana (4-9-0-0) – a Division II opponent – visiting, Illinois (9-3-1-1) knew it had a good opportunity to pick up two wins. The Illini took advantage, winning the games by the scores of 5-3 and 5-2 respectively.

The Illini had a slow start to Friday’s game. After the first period, the score was tied 1-1. The Illini never pulled away.

Two goals from forward Shaunak Pal and one each from forwards Connor Robbs and Eric Cruickshank helped seal the Illini victory, but the team never got ahead by more than two goals.

Cruickshank made sure that the Illini did not have a similar slow start Saturday.

The Illini took an early lead Saturday, heading into the first intermission with a 3-0 lead. The first goal came after 48 seconds of play: Cruickshank snuck in front of the net and chipped one past the Indiana goalie.

Head coach Nick Fabbrini was much happier with how his team started Saturday’s contest.

“I thought we had a way better start tonight then we did last night,” Fabbrini said Saturday. “Tonight was the best start we have had in the past few weeks.”

The Illini kept pouring it on from there. A powerplay goal from forward Grant Stueve widened the gap, and a slap shot from the stick of defenseman Aaron Dusek deflected off forward Mario Pacheco for the third goal of the period.

After a goal from Indiana early in the second period, a fight resulted in one Indiana player being ejected, one minor penalty for Indiana and two minors for Illinois. Indiana had a chance to pull within one goal on a breakaway, but Illinois goalie David Heflin made a save.

“At that point, I was just focusing on the puck,” Heflin said. “I can’t let anything outside distract me. When I am out on the ice, it’s just me the puck and the net. I stay focused on the puck and then I make the save.”

Fabbrini made the decision to sub Heflin out for Zev Grumet-Morris in the third period. Fabbrini wanted to get Grumet-Morris some playing time, and to build his confidence. Grumet-Morris’s last game in net was Illinois’ 7-1 loss to Illinois State. He was subbed out after Illinois State scored 3 goals in the first six minutes.

Grumet-Morris was solid in Saturday’s third period. He let in one goal, but made several key saves the rest of the game to keep the Hoosiers at a distance.

This was the first weekend sweep the Illini have recorded since Oct. 2, and the first sweep at home since Sept. 19.

Fabbrini said that it is important for the Illini to sweep at home, and it has been frustrating that they haven’t done it in a while. But with more CSCHL games coming upch, Fabbrini believes that it is better late than never.

“This was a good weekend for us,” Fabbrini said. “It was good for us to come in and get two wins this weekend, considering how last weekend ended (with the loss to Illinois State). It was good for these guys to start feeling good about themselves again.”

[email protected] @cole_Henke