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

Illinois hockey splits final weekend of fall semester with Purdue

The Illini (7-8-0) came into this weekend, after enjoying a nice fall break and Thanksgiving holiday, with one goal: Purdon’t let Purdue (10-4-1) end their semester on a sour note. After dropping game one on Friday in overtime by a score of 2-1, the Illini bounced back in a big way winning 5-2 on Saturday.

In what has become increasingly more common as the season draws on, junior goaltender Nolan Woodring and senior goaltender Ben Mazurek both received a start this weekend and continued their staunch defense of the net.

Woodring skated out for the first game on Friday and put on about as good of a show as the Illini could’ve asked for. The game held scoreless until the last minute of the second period when the Boilermakers snuck one by Woodring to put Purdue up 1-0. However, Illinois did not go down quietly into the night, as sophomore defenseman Matthew McDonald had something to say about it with 13 minutes left to play in the third quarter.

McDonald netted the game-tying goal off assists from senior forward Peter Campisi and freshman forward Bailey McCarthy. Woodring held strong through the rest of the period and into the final minute of overtime before Purdue knocked one through on their 30th and final shot of the night.

Despite the heartbreaking loss the night before, the Illini still had business to take care of. Head coach John Opilka said that toughness and mentality are something they worked on all break.

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    “We focused on competing on pucks and winning battles,” Opilka said. “We need to be stronger on our sticks and not so easy to play against.”

    Illinois responded early and often in game two. With Mazurek in net this time and ready to go, the Illini jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first 13 minutes with goals from freshman forward Anthony Varrassi, senior defenseman Atticus Helfer and junior defenseman Luke Alpe. The two teams then exchanged goals to round out an active first period 4-2 with the Illinois goal coming from freshman defenseman Nathan Dash.

    Nothing else crossed the Great Wall of Mazurek after the first-period buzzer sounded as the Illini were able to cruise to the final whistle, though not before Alpe added a little insult to injury with his second goal of the game in the third period — a showing of resilience that’ll be necessary for the Illini if they want to have a strong second half of the season.

    This series encapsulated most of Illinois’ season so far as it has played at roughly a .500 pace over the last month or two, often struggling to sweep a lesser opponent or pick up an upset to keep themselves from getting swept.

    Opilka agreed that there was an area of improvement so far and still more concern going forward.

    “I have seen some very encouraging things in our game,” Opilka said. “The big thing now is being able to play our game on a more consistent basis. Focusing on our process and what we want to accomplish rather than playing into our opponent’s game.”

    A great final game in front of the home crowd to close out the first half of the season, but all the Illini puck heads out there will have to wait until mid-January for the season to resume. After enjoying the holiday season, tune back in on Jan. 12 and 13 as Illinois (8-8-1) faces a familiar opponent in Roosevelt University (8-5-2 pending two games later this month) in a home-and-home series. On Jan. 12, the game will be held at Roosevelt University at 7:20 p.m, and the Jan. 13 game will be at 7 p.m. in Champaign at the Ice Arena.

     

    @spitzanity

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