Bad ice and the penalty box cumulate to Illinois’ loss Saturday

Joe+Olen+tracks+the+puck+and+makes+a+save+in+the+shootout++against+Iowa+State+on+Saturday.+Illinois+lost+3-2.

Tyler Courtney | The Daily Illin

Joe Olen tracks the puck and makes a save in the shootout against Iowa State on Saturday. Illinois lost 3-2.

By Ethan Swanson

The sophomore duo of James Mcging and Eric Cruickshank has been an offensive powerhouse all season.SO

Tied for the team lead in points with 20, Mcging has racked up 17 assists while his line mate Cruickshank has netted 13 goals in 14 games played.SO

However, the pair of second-year stars also lead the Illini in a far less productive statistic: penalty minutes.SO

In the Illini’s loss to Iowa State on Saturday night, both players were unavailable for the game’s shootout due to major penalties, and the Cyclones scored both their regulation goals on the power play resulting from Mcging’s player misconduct call in the third period.SO

Cruickshank talked back to a referee after a call and wouldn’t return to the ice.

Together, the sophomores have accumulated 105 penalty minutes, accounting for nearly half the team’s total. Cruickshank leads the team with 56 minutes of his own.SO

“It’s unacceptable,” head coach Nick Fabbrini. “Especially in that point in the game, we need those guys on the ice if we want to accomplish what we know we can.”

Water on the “Big Pond”

Ask players and they’ll typically say that their home ice, known as the “Big Pond”, is a major advantage for the Illini. After last weekend, the Illini might change their mind.

During the overtime and shootouts in both games, the Big Pond actually looked like a pond. There were visible puddles of water on the ice near the locker room entrance, and the sections that were still frozen were gashed by the extended skate time.

On a balmy November weekend, the outside temperature got up into the 60s at its highest.SO The weather made for a successful Dad’s Weekend for many — during the weekend’s games, many of the fans in attendance were dads and their children — but left the ice choppy and rough.

“When the ice is choppy I’m just looking to shot,” John Olen said. “It’s very difficult to stick handle the puck when the ice is in that condition. There’s some sections they definitely need to fix.”

Shots, shots, shots

It’s impressive that the Illini only allowed five goals in regulation over the weekend considering the plethora of shots the Cyclones were able to fire at junior goalie Joe Olen.

Iowa State totaled 99 shots on goal over the weekend. There was not a single period of play where the Cyclones didn’t tally at least 10 shots on goal, getting 40 in the third periods of Friday and Saturday’s games combined.SO

He allowed just a single shootout goal across both games.

It is defensive performances like last weekend’s that have given Olen 326 saves in 10 games played this season. Yet, Olen is still only allowing 1.88 goals per game, good for 12th in the ACHA.SO

“Our defensive zone struggled a bit,” John Olen said. “A lot of their opportunities came from us not being able to get the puck past the blue line in the neutral zone. We have some work to do.”

[email protected]?

@EthanSwanson88