Barnhart shuts out Redbirds


Elisabeth Neely

Eric Cruickshank (15) passes to a lineman across the ice past Lindenwood’s players at the Ice Arena on Friday, Dec. 1. Illini won in overtime 2-1.

By Danielle Williams, Staff writer

Backup goaltender Jake Barnhart had the weekend of his career, picking up his first career shutout for the Illinois hockey team.

Barnhart saved a total of 20 shots on goal against the Illinois State Redbirds to lead the team to a record of 5-0 for wins this season.

“He looked good in practice all week and definitely earned his spot for tonight,” said head coach Nick Fabbrini. “He did a great job and made some huge saves.”

Catching a break for the second weekend in a row, the Illinois hockey team was able to capture another series against Illinois State.

Illinois captain Joey Ritondale, who is nursing an upper-body injury, and senior defenseman Eric Cruickshank, out for a lower-body injury, were not on the ice this weekend, but the Illini made up for it.

The Illini also didn’t let their four minor penalties hold them back on Friday and swept the Redbirds in the first game of the series, 5-0.

Wasting no time to get on the board Saturday, senior  forward Bobby Ernsting found some space to put an early goal in for the Illini, giving them a 1-0 lead in the opening frame against the Redbirds.

Ernsting is the lead scorer for Illinois.

“I saw a shot coming from the point. I saw James (McGing) crush into that foul post, so I wanted to get into that near post. I saw the puck coming from the other side, saw it by the net and decided to go for it,” Ernsting said.

The second goal came quicker for the Illini during the second period; they scored two goals within 30 seconds of each other to get a 3-0 lead.

Illinois transfer Evan Sabo picked up the puck and put one in against his former teammates, and Ernsting found his second goal of the night right behind him.

According to Sabo, being able to get one past his former teammates was a great moment, but he wasn’t the only one impressed by the two goals.

Head coach Nick Fabbrini was caught smiling, a true oddity, after the huge play by the Illini.

“It was a great goal. It started with forcing a turnover in the neutral zone and using our speed and skating to create that turnover,” Fabbrini said. “We talk all the time about playing with effort and energy and letting the skill take over after that, and I thought that was a good example of it. It started with effort and ended with high-skill play.”

Alternate captain Tyler Opilka took a turnover opportunity and added another goal for the Illini with a quick assist from defenseman Charley Sulk.

Jon Moskaluk scored one, leaving the Illini on top at the end of the third period.

The Illini received a rushing penalty early in the first period, but the team still managed to kill the power play.

The second period was unexpected, as two Illini who aren’t on the ice much managed to get their team on the board after a scoreless period.

Illini forward Mike Turek was able to get past a Redbird in order to secure his second career goal in the second period.

Senior Andrew Wicklin also got the puck past the post for another goal for Illinois.

“We’re gonna try to stay away from that dirty stuff, we don’t want to take too many penalties especially in the offensive zone” Wicklin said. “We’re gonna try to play a little bit safer here and take it easy.”

Barnhart’s luck ran out as Illinois State’s Adam Howey put the Redbirds on the board, 2-1.

Forward Thomas Kolaz redirected one in for the Illini mid-second period to claim a 3-1 lead.

Early in the third period, forward Luke Forfar, who missed first semester play, gave Illinois a 4-1 lead after catching a deflected shot.

After a spontaneous brawl, the Illini defeated the Redbirds 4-1, sweeping their second series in a row.

“It was really important for us to continue to play well and put the game together,” Fabbrini said. “We’ve talked all year about the CSCHL and the national tournament, having to win three or four games in a row so it’s really an important goal for us to play well.”


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