Illinois hockey’s defensive lapse puts team in tough spot for tournament play.


Austin Yattoni | The Daily Illin

Illinois’ James Mcging fights for possession of the puck during the game against Lindenwold University at the Ice Arena on Saturday, January 30. The Illini lost 4-1.

By Ethan Swanson

Both the coaches and players were able to identify their most prominent deficiency: mistakes in the defensive zone.

The Illini couldn’t win a faceoff in their defensive zone, giving up four goals as a direct result of losing a defensive draw.

Junior goalie Joe Olen shined in the Oct. 23-24 series with the Bobcats, only allowing two regulation goals on 92 shotsss. This weekend, Olen and the Illini defensemen were torched for 13 goals on 84 shots — giving up a season-high 51 shots on goal

“There was a lot of confusion in the defensive zone,” said sophomore forward James Mcging. “We were having problems picking guys up and getting in front of people. That’s definitely going to be one of our main focuses in practice this week.”

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    Mcging still shines

    Despite a dismal team performance, Mcging’s stats continue to highlight the box scores.

    The sophomore wing had his stick involved with five of the Illini’s seven goals over the weekend, notching two goals and two assists on Friday and adding another assist on

    His four-point game Saturday tied his own season and team-high mark, and Mcging now has a team-leading 43 points for the season — No. 2 in the CSCHL and No. 20 in the ACHA.

    “We just need him to continue to grow in his role,” said head coach Nick Fabbrini. “Guys follow him, when he’s up and going and playing his game, he gets the other guys going, too. He’s played a high level of hockey for a long time, other guys know and understand that.”

    Bubble Team

    Two losses to a conference opponent did not help Illinois to solidify its place in the ACHA national tournament.

    After the weekend, the Illini know where they stand in the CSCHL — sitting at fourth, Illinois will take on five-seed Robert Morris Feb. 19 – but with a current No. 21 ranking in the ACHA, the Illini will need help getting into the 20-team national tournament

    Even if Illinois does defeat Robert Morris in the play-in game to the CSCHL tournament, a potential matchup with league No. 1 Lindenwood looms.

    The Illini’s best chance to make the 20-team field is to romp Illinois State in this week’s home series with the Redbirds and dominate a Feb. 26-27 series with Indiana Institute of Technology — two of the weaker teams in the league.

    “All we’re worried about is beating Illinois State by as many goals as we can,” Mcging said. “We haven’t even really talked about any tournament yet.