The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Illini hockey prepares for weekend showdown with Purdue Northwest

The Daily Illini Photo File
Defense Atticus Helfer takes control of the puck on Oct. 23. The Illini will be playing against Purdue this Friday and Saturday.

Last year may have been a season to forget for Illini hockey, but it would not be known from its 3-1 start to the new season. After compiling only 12 points over the course of 21 games last season, the Illini have jumped out to 8 early points, including a sweep of Northern Illinois two weeks ago and a split with Michigan State last weekend.

Ben Mazurek, club president and starting goalie, says this success was in the making all offseason.

“We’ve had a lot of strong new guys coming in,” Mazurek said. “We’re more connected than before. We’re playing well together as a team.”

That statement could not be more true, as the Illini have racked up 15 assists on 12 goals so far this season for an assist-to-goal ratio of 1.25:1, outpacing its total from last season.

The Illini are led in this charge by senior forward Alexander Matveev, with five points, and sophomore forward Gregory Etingen, with six points. Both are on pace to more than double their scoring output from last season.

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“Those guys had a great summer,” Mazurek said. “They came back better than before, and we’re seeing the reward of that. They just keep putting points on the board.”

The defense has struggled a bit out of the gate, but that is to be expected when five of the eight defensemen to appear in a game are brand new to the team. Normally, this would result in excess goals, but that has not been the case for the Illini.

Out of all Division I goalies who have seen as many shots on goal as Mazurek, he ranks first in saves and save percentage, with 111 and .957 respectively.

“It’s my last year, so I had to have a good summer,” Mazurek said. “I was training hard, so I think that’s paying off.”

Speaking on his leadership, which is leading to better play, Mazurek did not waste his chance to praise the team.

“It’s not just me, you know,” Mazurek said. “Woody (junior goalie Nolan Woodring) and I are playing great and just doing whatever we can to support the team.”

The Illini look to keep its foot on the gas as it plays a home-and-home series this weekend against Purdue University Northwest. The games are at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, with the latter hosted at the Ice Arena. 

The Pride of Purdue NW come into this weekend at 2-2 after a season where they finished 21-6 and were ranked No. 15 in the final American Collegiate Hockey Association rankings.

The Purdue NW offense tends to spread the wealth, but that could change after getting shut out in back-to-back games by Adrian College last weekend. This is the first time in a while that the Illini go into a series with the general public expecting a win. With expectations comes pressure, but Mazurek believes that pressure is nothing the team cannot handle.

“Every team you play is a good team, so you have to come in expecting to play hard, and you can’t take any week easy,” Mazurek said. “We play every week like we’re playing the top team in the country, so I think we’re ready.” 

With that mentality and the talent the Illini possess, fans could be in for a competitive series this weekend.



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