Illinois hockey team prepping for preseason matchup against Springfield Blues


Elisabeth Neely

Bobby Ernsting (24) faces off against Robert Morris’ player at the Ice Arena on Saturday, Feb. 18. Illini fell to Robert Morris 3-2.

By Gavin Good

Illinois head coach Nick Fabbrini will not be worried about the results of the Illinois hockey team’s preseason matchup against the Springfield Blues this weekend.

“This weekend isn’t so much results oriented. Obviously, we want to win, we want to win every time we step on the ice,” Fabbrini said. “It’s more of a learning experience weekend than a do-or-die one.”

The lines will not be definitive, as players such as senior forward Eric Cruickshank will be missing this weekend’s preseason series due to personal reasons.

Another player who will be missing the games, along with some of the regular season, is senior forward Shaunak Pal. Pal could be out for some time with a right shoulder injury.

The severity of the injury includes Pal being unable to have any feeling from his right shoulder down to his arm. Pal remains unknown on how long this shoulder injury will keep him sidelined.

With several players not traveling this weekend, some of the younger players on the roster will have a chance to be in the spotlight. One of those players is sophomore center Robert Ernsting.

Ernsting proved his value early on to the team last season immediately playing on the second line, scoring 13 goals and racking up 14 assists. He was a significant factor in Illinois’ second line’s success last year.

However, Ernsting will have to adapt to all new linemates this season after wingers Luke Forfar and Eric Saulters left the program.

“That chemistry is not there anymore,” Ernsting said. “But the chemistry throughout the team is still there and that will help us going forward.”

The Illini have had several fresh faces join the team this season, and according to Fabbrini, a majority of them will have a chance to make an immediate impact right off the bat.

Freshman forward Drew Richter was the first person Fabbrini mentioned.

“He’s a guy that came over from Springfield last season, on the ice with his skating ability, he should have a huge impact with this team,” Fabbrini said. “He might be one of the fastest players on the team.”

Another player who will get his shot against Springfield this weekend is freshman defenseman Joe Nolan. Fabbrini spent two years recruiting Nolan to come to the University, so he is excited to finally have him on the team.

The Illini will keep four goalies on the roster come the regular season to play it safe in case of injuries. Last season, they dressed three goalies for the games.

With the season right around the corner, Fabbrini hopes to build off this preseason series against the Blues.

“As a team, we’ll have five practices,” Fabbrini said. “So, I think we understand that the team we are now is hopefully not the team we’re going to be in a month or six weeks from now.”


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