Illini hockey continues winless streak, drops two matches to Grand Valley Lakers

Forward+Dmytro+Shmidt+rushes+across+the+rink+to+assist+the+rest+of+the+team+against+Grand+Valley+State+on+Sunday.+Despite+the+Illinis+efforts+the+team+continues+its+losing+streak+with+two+recent+matches+against+the+Grand+Valley+Lakers.

Logan Hodson

Forward Dmytro Shmidt rushes across the rink to assist the rest of the team against Grand Valley State on Sunday. Despite the Illini’s efforts the team continues its losing streak with two recent matches against the Grand Valley Lakers.

By James Barrowman, Contributing Writer

Despite putting up a good fight in both matches, the Illini fell 2-7 to the Grand Valley Lakers two nights in a row, making their record 0-8-0. The Illini were able to put together some solid shifts against the Lakers but their momentum was stifled by a lack of consistency and bad penalties throughout the games.

Illinois had a shaky start on Friday, spending large portions of the first period trapped in their zones by the speedy Lakers offense. The Lakers scored their first goal coming at 17:13, however, the goal was taken back for interference. The Lakers would go on to score 5 minutes later at 12:36. The Illini would bounce back shortly after though, tying the game at 1-1. 

Illinois would spend the rest of the period fighting off the Lakers, walking away from the first period still tied thanks to junior goalie Ben Mazurek, who was the most reliable player for the Illini during the game. 

“(He) kept us in the game,” head coach Chad Cassel said after the game. “Our goaltending was outstanding early on.”

Illinois had their best period in the second, where they were able to consistently move across the neutral zone, forecheck, and pressure the Lakers in order to get good chances. However, their momentum wavered after the Illini had a two man advantage starting at 16:05 on which they failed to capitalize on. After that powerplay the Illini began to falter, a point that Cassel was aware of.

“We had a minute forty 5 on 3 powerplay and we created virtually nothing on that. So I think that was kind of a turning point and it was a little downhill from there.”

The Lakers followed up their immaculate penalty kill with a goal 9:45 into the period. After that the Illini deflated, despite shutting down a 4-on-3 penalty late in the second. 

The third period is what proved to be the deciding period in the game, as the Lakers ended up scoring four goals. Two would come early in the period but the last two were a direct result of a five minute major the Illini took after junior forward Marc Mestanas boarded one of the Lakers with about six minutes left in the game. The Lakers crushed the penalty kill unit throughout the last five minutes of the game, as the Illini’s defense wasn’t able to keep up. 

Despite the improvements the Illini made, bad penalties led to their downfall in the game, a theme that carried on to Saturday night.

The Illini played a consistent game Saturday night against the Grand Valley Lakers before a collapse in the third period led to a 0-5 loss. Despite the score, the Illini put up a good fight against the Lakers with a consistent game that was hampered by the Lakers’ superior speed and defense.

Illinois started off slow, spending the first 4 minutes of the game mostly in their own zone before they were able to put together some solid shifts where they were able to move up into the neutral zone and put some pressure on the Lakers defense. The Illini had two power play opportunities throughout the period, but could not capitalize on either attempt. Grand Valley also scored with 10:04 remaining in the first despite the solid performance of junior goalie Joseph Schmid. In terms of consistency, the goaltending for Illinois has been the best part of the team.

“Our goaltending has been great all year. I think that’s the strength of our team,” head coach Chad Cassel said. “We got to pick it up, up in front of them. But they’ve been strong all year.”

The Illini had another strong start offensively in the second period, but once again the Lakers’ superior defense and speed was able to negate the Illini’s drive to the net. Throughout the period the Illini would have a good level of pressure in the offensive zone and had quality shots, but the Lakers’ defense and goaltending prevented any possible Illini goals. On the other end the Lakers were much more dominant on offense during the game, outshooting the Illini 47 to 23. 

As with the previous games, Illinois collapsed in the third period, giving up 3 goals by the time the game ended. The Illini had another power play within the first 3 minutes in which they failed to score and almost gave up a goal during the power play. The team’s play was visibly less consistent and aggressive throughout the third period, especially when compared to the first which was something Grand Valley capitalized on. 

“We’re a team where there’s a very small margin of error for us,”  Cassel said when asked about the third period collapse. “If we take our foot off the gas at all it seems like the puck ends up in the back of our net.”

The Illini will face Maryville University at Maryville next weekend. They will continue to look for their first win of the season.

 

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