Time is running out on the Illini hockey season


Austin Yattoni | The Daily Illin

Illinois’ James McGing carries the puck up the ice during the game against Lindenwood University at the Ice Arena on Saturday. The Illini lost 4-1.

By Lucas Wright

Tweet: [email protected] look to close out season on high note

With the end of its season on the horizon, the Illinois hockey team is making its final push before the CSCHL conference tournamentbr.

The Illini sit 12 points back of the first-place Lindenwood Lionsbr in the conference standings and are out of the regular season title race. But the Illini still have a shot at winning the conference tournament — coming up on February 19-21br.

Illinois has two final tune-ups left before the conference tournament: an away series at Ohio University to wrap up the conference schedule and a home series against Illinois Statebr. The team is coming off a home series split with the Lions, and head coach Nick Fabbrinibr is happy with his team’s position at this point in the season.

“We’ve put ourselves in a good position to move up in the rankings or at least stay right where we are,” Fabbrini said. “A win against the number one team in the country, compared to what other teams around us are doing, is a success for us. Now we’ve got to go into Ohio, a tough environment, and get one.”

McGing and Cruickshank continue to lead the waybr

Statistically, it’s been a two-man show on the ice this season for the Illini.

Sophomores James McGing and Eric Cruickshank have been the catalysts for the Illinois offense this season, accounting for 32 goals and 40 assists, a little under a third of the Illini’s offensive output (235 points)br.

Cruickshank picked up right where he left off last season. In 39 games during his freshman campaign, Cruickshank netted 13 goals and tallied 19 assists. This year, he has surpassed that output, accumulating 34 points with a month left to play this seasonbr.

McGing has thrived this season in a primary role for the Illini. He has led the team in assists and points. Aside from his showings on the stat sheet, Fabbrini said that McGing has really come into his own in a leadership role on the team.

“I tell him all the time that I think he’s one of the best players in the country,” Fabbrini said. “That’s what we really need him to be every night out and for him to grow within that role.”

Illini road struggles persist

With a month left on the season, Illinois has only two home series left, where it has a .687 win percentage, but the team will be away from the University of Illinois Ice Arena for its most important games of the year.

Away from the “Big Pond” the Illini have not fared well, going 5-9br in neutral site and road games. They’ll head to Ohio on Feb. 5-6br for their final regular season conference matchup of the season.

Illinois will also be on the road for the conference tournament later on in February, in Ames, Iowa. The Illini are 2-2 in neutral site games on the seasonbr.

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