Olen nets hat trick in much-needed Illini hockey win

By Lucas Wright

Tweet: John Olen nets hat trick in @Illinihockey win over ISU

After losing three straight games, the Illinois hockey team needed a win against Illinois State to bounce back and keep its season on track.

In times like that, most teams look to their upperclassmen or captains to get the job done. Enter senior captain John Olen.

At Illinois Ice Arena on Friday night, Olen netted a hat trick and added an assist en route to a 5-2 Illini win over the Redbirds – Illinois’ first win since Jan. 29.

The hat trick was Olen’s first of his career, an accomplishment that he said he’d never forget.

“It felt great and it’s a nice milestone to get. I’ve never gotten a hat trick in my career so it’s nice to have gotten it tonight,” Olen said. “It’s definitely one for the memories.”

The Illini’s relentless offensive attack kept the Redbirds on their heels throughout most of the matchup. Olen opened the scoring at the five-minute mark of the first period, which featured 18 shots on goal for  Illinois.

ISU hung around for most of the second period, scoring midway through to tie it up at 1-1. Penalties were a big part of the period — Illinois junior Eric Saulters visiting the penalty box twice for boarding and roughing, respectively. 

The Illini took the lead back for good when sophomore James Mcging found the back of the net for the Illini on a pass from Olen to make it 2-1.

The third period opened with a flurry of offense from both sides, with Illini sophomore Grant Stueve scoring in the opening minutes, followed by alternating goals from ISU and Olen to increase the Illinois lead to 4-2. The Redbirds tallied a few more penalties in the third, where it seemed their frustration hit a boiling point. Olen capped off his hat trick midway through the period to put the game on ice for the Illini, 5-2.

In the win, Illinois addressed some of it’s biggest gray areas coming in, including its shaky defensive play of late. Head coach Nick Fabbrini said he was glad to see his team make strides toward curing their defensive woes.

“We had a couple of break-downs, but we were better overall,” Fabbrini said. “We can still be tighter. I think we gave them a few too many (chances) tonight, but Zev (Grumet-Morris) did a great job of bailing us out.”

The win greatly improves the Illini’s outlook on the postseason. After tonight, it appears that Illinois will at least remain within the national tournament field, and a win tomorrow could help their national ranking.

Not only did the win help the Illini in the standings, but Fabbrini also said the win was a huge boost for the team’s morale.

“We’re coming off (losing) three in a row to two of the best teams in the country, so it was nice for us to get back and feel good about ourselves,” Fabbrini said. “It’s good to get a win. We needed a win, and now we need another one.”

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