Illinois hockey embarrassed by Illinois State

By Cole Henke

The Illinois hockey team took care of business Friday night.

Its game Saturday was a completely different story.

Illinois State (5-9-1-1) ran Illinois (7-3-1-1) out of the rink Saturday with a 7-1 Redbirds win.

The Redbirds were not supposed to be a challenge for the Illini. The Illini were ranked No. 13 in the country going into the weekend. This is the first year the Redbirds have been a Division I club team. Illinois was coming off of weekend splits against conference opponents and top-10 ranked teams Ohio and Robert Morris. Illinois State was blown out in two-consecutive games against that same Robert Morris team.

Illinois stayed true to form and blew out Illinois State on their ice with a 7-2 victory Friday. Illinois State scored the first two goals of the game, but then Illinois rattled off seven-straight goals to win the game.

On Saturday, the Redbirds scored early again, but the Illini could not make up the ground a second time around.

According to head coach Nick Fabbrini, a lack of energy was the cause for the Illini’s slow start, which is familiar ground for the team. Fabbrini said that the Illini have struggled to get going early in games this season, but this was the first game that the Illini goalies could not bail out their team.

The Redbirds had only 24 shots on goal compared to the Illini’s 31, but three of the Redbirds’ first four shots found the net in the second game. According to Austin Zima, the quality of shots that the Illini defense was giving up was the problem.

“Losing seven to one was not an indicator of how our goalies played,” Zima said. “They, for what it’s worth, stopped the bleeding. We gave up fewer than 30 shots, but the shots we gave up put our goalies in tough position. We did not give them the effort they deserved.”

Sophomore David Heflin started in net and shut down the Redbirds on Friday night, giving up only two goals. On Saturday, junior goalie Zev Grumet-Morris got the start but was subbed out for Heflin six minutes into the first period after the Redbirds went up 3-2.

Heflin recorded 16 saves while in the net, but he also let in four goals.

“Any time I go into the net, my goal is to give my team an opportunity to win,” Heflin said. “I personally don’t think I played well during Saturday’s game. I didn’t think my performance was up to par. I made some saves, but I didn’t make the saves I needed to in order to give my team that opportunity.”

According to Zima, the Illini thought they had done everything they needed to do in order to prepare for Saturday’s game. He said that the loss was deflating, especially coming off of two successful weekends and said that “any wind that we had was completely taken out of our sails this weekend.”

Zima also said that Saturday’s game was just one to put behind them, and it did not change how they saw themselves as a team.

“In competitive sports, you aren’t going to win every game, and we know that,” Zima said. “We are not worried. We know that we are a good team, and that we can compete with and beat any team we play.”

Even the Redbirds realized that the Illini were off. According to Zima, some of the people he knows on the Illinois State team told him that it was obvious that something was off.

“I had friends come up to me after the game and tell me that was not an Illinois hockey team on the ice,” Zima said. “We did not play to the level that is expected of us. People know Illinois hockey and they know when we are off. We will play better and learn from this.”

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