Illini of the Week: McGing back into his routine, on and off the ice


The Daily Illini File Photo

Portrait of James McGing

By Erich Fisher, Staff writer

Senior forward James McGing sits down, drinks his coffee and checks out the news, either by reading a newspaper, or on his phone, before the start of every Illinois hockey game.

This act is considered unique by his teammates and coaches.

“Most guys are taping their sticks or listening to music, just normal stuff like that,” sophomore forward Robert Ernsting said. “Then James is just reading a newspaper.”

Reading the news before games seems to be working for McGing so far this season, as he opened up his senior campaign with a hat trick in the Friday game against Michigan State and two assists in the Saturday game.

McGing scored or assisted on 42 percent of the Illini’s goals that weekend.

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While McGing is off to a fast start to the season, there has been an adjustment process. He is going from playing on the first line with senior forwards Eric Cruickshank and Grant Stueve last season, to playing on the second line this year with Ernsting and junior forward David Kellner.

“It was kind of weird at first because Ernie is like the exact same player as me kind of, style-wise, where as Cruicks and Stu are more like post up in the slot guys and pass them the puck, which is nice to play with because it makes things simple,” McGing said. “With Ernie, he’s just kind of looping around, doing weird stuff and being unpredictable, which isn’t bad, it’s just hard to adapt to initially.”

“We both think the same way. After a few games I figured him out and now we are sort of feeling each other right now,” McGing said. “With Kellner, he just gets in the corners and leads the way for us which makes it easy on my lungs when he’s doing that. I’ve liked playing with them so far.”

Ernsting and Kellner racked up five and two points respectively in the series against the Spartans and the entire line had a combined plus/minus average of 5.3.

To be able to go from playing on the first line a year ago with players he’s been on the ice with his entire Illinois career, to then go and play with whole new line mates and be just as successful attests to the level of talent McGing possesses, according to head coach Nick Fabbrini.

“He’s a guy that can create a lot on his own and creates a lot of space for his teammates. He can pretty much play with anybody up and down the lineup,” Fabbrini said. “I think those three together mesh really well.”

Fabbrini isn’t the only one that thinks that McGing meshes well with his new line mates, as Ernsting is enjoying being on the same line as the senior from Chicago, Illinois.

“We both know how to move without the puck and really get open,” Ernsting said. “We both have great vision with the puck and putting those two together with the talent we have on that line makes it easy to play with him.”

Becoming a leader is something Fabbrini has had many conversations with McGing on, and he feels that McGing has become more of a leader for his teammates. Fabbrini said guys are looking at him in games and practices for cues, as well as the positive attitude he always brings.

McGing himself feels that his game on and off the ice has developed significantly over these last four years.

“I’m a lot more simple now. My freshman year I would turn the puck over a lot more trying to be too complex. Now I try to keep it simple in the games as much as possible,” McGing said.

“I’ve become more of a leader in the locker room. Hopefully that will translate over to getting fewer penalty minutes,” McGing joked.


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