The Daily Illini

Illinois hockey splits shootouts with No. 2 Iowa State

By Ethan Swanson

A weekend where both games ended in a shootout was probably not Fabbrini’s idea of an ease-in series.

“We competed this weekend,” Fabbrini said. “It was a battle.”

Friday night’s matchup between the Illini (10-3-3) and Iowa State (14-2-3) featured a standing room-only crowd eager to see what a finally healthy Illinois team could accomplish against a top-ACHA power.

Just 13 seconds into the game, the Illini found themselves a man down as a result of a cross-checking penalty.

Iowa state would capitalize on the early power play opportunities, netting two goals in the first period to take a 2-0 lead JTwith seven minutes left until the first intermission.

Just two minutes after the second Cyclone goal, Grant StueveJT lit the lamp for the Illini on an unassisted wraparound goal.

Just minutes after the start of the second period, Olen reminded Illini fans how he earned last season’s scoring title with a game-tying power play goal — his first of the season.

“The ankle’s still a little sore, but the more I skated, the better it felt,” Olen said. “I just wanted to give us any type of spark I could offensively.”

One of O len’s alternate captains, Eric CruickshankJT, gave the Illini their first lead of the game 10 minutes later off another power play, resulting from an Iowa State interference call.

In the third period, Iowa State tied the game at threeJT and sent the game to overtime and an eventual three-round shootout.

John’s little brother, Joe Olen, stuffed all three Cyclone attempts while Cruickshank once again emerged as the hero with a second-round goal to end the game and give the Illini a 4-3 victoryJT.

“I was extremely proud of our guys’ resolve and ability to put up points even though we weren’t at our best,” Fabbrini said. “It says a lot about us.”

Saturday’s series finale featured even more late-game drama, but this time, it did not go the Illini’s way.

A plethora of penalty minutes forced the Illini to play a man down nearly half the game, creating 54 Iowa State shots on goalJT.

Despite recording only four shots in the first period, Cruickshank scorched a puck past the Cyclone goalie six minutes into the first period to give the Illini the 1-0 leadJT, which they would hold until the third period.

In the game’s final period, the Illini lost their top two scorers.

James McgingJT was assessed a major penalty and game misconduct for slashing, sending him to the showers early.

In the following minutes, Cruickshank was called for hooking and exchanged words with a referee about the call, resulting in Illinois’ second ejection.

“It’s really a choice he has to make,” Fabbrini said. “A lot of the penalties he’s had this year are a result of him losing his composure. Being one of our best scorers, he’s going to get a lot of attention, so he needs to control his emotions. We need him on the ice.”

The Illini were given a gift in the final two minutes of the game, as a Grant Stueve shot was kicked in by an Iowa State defenseman to tie the game and send it into overtime.

After a scoreless overtime, another shootout ensued; only this time, it didn’t last just three rounds.

After three failed goal attempts by each team, a Cyclone shooter finally snuck one past Olen, but was matched by Illini Josh BelmontJT, extending the shootout.

Without Mcging and Cruickshank, the Illini had no pure scorers left and were ultimately defeated in eighth rounds to give Iowa State a 3-2 winJT.

“We know we need to be better than that,” Fabbrini said. “We needed that game, for the league standings and our national ranking, but the points we did get were huge. Everyone in that locker room knows we can play better. We know what we need to do against Lindenwood.”

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