Team sweeps weekend series versus Crimson Tide


Elisabeth Neely

Senior Stephen Quinn challenges for the puck Nov. 2, during a 6-0 win game against Robert Morris.

By Jared Farmer, Staff writer

The Illini hockey team withstood “the Tide” as it swept its weekend series against Alabama. Hosted at the UI Ice Arena, the Illini held the Crimson Tide to just three goals on the weekend.

Illinois wasted no time setting the tone for Friday’s matchup. Sophomore Drew Richter was the first goal-scorer of the weekend, sinking a shot to put Illinois on the board following a power play. Junior Neil Novosel scored the second goal off an assist by sophomore Joe Nolan to conclude the period up 2-0.

“We started the game out alright,” said senior Stephen Quinn. “But then in the second period, we came out strong. We really put our foot on the gas pedal and picked things up, and we didn’t look back from there.”

The Illini started to pick up the pace at the beginning of the second, starting off with a goal from junior Bobby Ernsting early in the period. Fellow junior Evan Sabo was key in Illinois’ strategy for the second period and scored the fourth and sixth goals for the team.

Alabama managed to get on the board, but by the end of the second period, the Crimson Tide were facing an insurmountable 6-1 deficit. Before getting sent to the penalty box for slashing, Illinois sophomore Thomas Kolaz put himself in the scoring column and expanded the Illini’s lead to 7-1.

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Alabama’s Jacob Nau was the next player to score for the Crimson Tide, but two late Illini goals by Quinn and junior Luke Forfar secured the comfortable victory 9-2.

After a big loss in the first matchup, the Crimson Tide came in with a new, stifling energy on the defensive side of the puck; however, the Illini continued to control the tempo of the game and remained comfortable at the Big Pond.

“I thought we did a good job executing our game,” said head coach Nick Fabbrini. “After the loss last Saturday, we spent time this week talking about doing what makes us a successful hockey team. I thought we did a good job getting out to that early on Friday and sticking to it throughout the course of the game.”

On Saturday, the Illini were first on the board again off a goal for Kolaz midway through the first. The Crimson Tide would respond, taking advantage of a four-on-four situation to even the score at 1-1. Junior Chance Homerin would put the Illini back up by a goal late in the first, and Illinois closed the period up 2-1.

The second period remained a stalemate, with the score staying at 2-1 for the duration of the period. The Crimson Tide continued to stay in a position to tie the score up, but a late final goal by Quinn would seal the match and secure the sweep for the Illini.

“Tonight was similar to last week in the sense that we didn’t exactly have the same jump coming in on Saturday, and I thought our decision making with the puck was less than stellar tonight,” Fabbrini said. “We put ourselves in a lot of tough positions early and we gave up some chances to allow them to stay in the game, whereas on Friday, we didn’t give them any chances. So loose puck decisions could’ve cost us tonight.”

With the sweep, the No. 7-ranked Illini improve to 9-6 on the season, while the Crimson Tide’s record falls to 6-9. The Illini have spent a sizeable portion of the season banged up, but now fully healthy after the victory, the team has the opportunity to start gelling together as the middle of the season approaches.

“We’ve shown potential to be a great team, and I think just keeping it up throughout the season will be important,” Quinn said. “We’ve just got to go out every night and play our best game going forward, especially given how tough our schedule has been. We’ve just got to keep playing well and do what makes us successful.”

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