Illini hockey’s freshmen to make immediate impact on team


The Daily Illini File Photo

Illinois’ head coach Nick Fabbrini looks onto the rink after a contested call at the game against Eastern Michigan at the Ice Arena on Feb. 27, 2015. The freshmen on this year’s roster are looking to make up for the five seniors that graduated after last season.

By Erich Fisher, Staff writer

When players in any collegiate team leave the program, the incoming freshmen must compensate for the losses. This is no exception for the Illinois hockey team.

The Illini lost eight players last season, including winger Erik Saulters, defenseman Aaron Dusek and winger Luke Forfar, all of which were key players for the team. Now, Illinois has three freshman ready to fill those skates this year.

Freshman winger Drew Richter is one player who coaches think will make a difference this season for Illinois.

The last full season Richter played was back in 2016 when he played with the Springfield Jr. Blues. He scored four goals and had seven assists in 52 games. In the 2017 season, he played only one game with the Chicago Cougars.

In his first action of the season, Richter played against his old Blues team in a preseason game.

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“My old coach wasn’t there, so if he was there then I probably would have been a little nervous,” Richter said. “But, both teams have familiar systems so that was an easy adjustment for me.”

Richter hasn’t only adjusted well to his new team, but also to his new home ice also. The “Big Pond” is one of the biggest and widest ice rinks in the country.  Its wideness makes players that have speed, agility and puck handling flourish on the ice—all of which Richter possesses in his arsenal.

It has been two years since freshman defenseman Joe Nolan has been in school, and he says it is something he is still getting adjusted to, but being on the ice is something he will always be familiar with.

However, with the Illinois Ice Arena being one of the widest rinks in the country, Nolan has certainly had to adjust his play to it.

“I’ve had to work on my positioning when people are coming at me on the rush.” Nolan said. “There’s been a learning curve with getting used to it.”

A year ago, Nolan found himself being an influential factor of the St. Louis Jr. Blues. He scored six goals with the team while assisting on another 30. Nolan feels that his puck movement and overall defensive ability are going to be solid contributions for the Illini this season.

Still, Nolan credits senior defensemen Joey Ritondale and Joey Caprio for their leadership and kindness in helping him translate over to the team.

“When I make a mistake, they’re there to help me correct it. When I do something good, they are there to cheer me on,” Nolan said. “It has been great having those two guys help out this year.

At 6’4” and 205 pounds, freshman winger Jon Moskaluk is not in any definition of undersized. He also can put that size to effective use, scoring 11 goals and 11 assists in only 14 games with the Chicago Cougars last season. His transition to the University has been a little more of a reality check.

“It’s definitely a lot more competitive, the guys are a lot bigger, grown men now,” Moskaluk said. “For me being a 19-year old, it’s a big adjustment playing against a bunch of older guys.”

Moskaluk has been receiving a lot of praise from his fellow teammates and coaches, which could set high expectations for him to be a contributor right off the bat for the Illini.

However, Moskaluk will try not to let any pressure fall onto his shoulders.

Instead, he is just relishing in his new accomplishments, like scoring a goal in his first game as an Illini against the Blues last weekend.

“It was pretty amazing,” Moskaluk said. “Definitely scoring in your first game, first period, first goal of the game, was a feeling I couldn’t have dreamt of.”


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