Illinois hockey gears up for final homestand
February 24, 2016
The Illinois hockey team is looking for a win.
The Illini will take the ice this weekend for their final home series of the year, coming off of a one-and-done showing at the CSCHL tournament. Fourth-seeded Illinois fell to the fifth-seeded Robert Morris Eagles in the opening round on Friday and have had a long week to think about the loss.ss
“It’s not a good feeling, getting knocked out in that first game at conference,” said captain John Olen. “I think everybody’s kind of dialed back now and gearing up for the national tournament. Everybody‘s been more serious and ready to go.”
Before the Illini head to the national tournament for their opening round matchup with Syracuse, they have the opportunity to get back to their winning ways this weekend at home. Illinois hosts Indiana Tech Friday and Saturday, with a chance to fix some key issues before nationals.ss
“We have to fix our consistency and being able to play 60 minute games,” Olen said. “We can’t let teams get back into the game and beat us in the end. We just have to be defensively sound and produce offensively.”
Regardless of how the players feel, the weekend’s matchup will have a different vibe. The Illinois seniors will be taking the ice for a final time in front of their home crowd at the “Big Pond,” and the games are sure to have some extra emotions involved.
Whether the emotions are positive or negative depends on how the Illini adjust from last weekend’s disappointing conference finish.
Head coach Nick Fabbrini said this weekend will be the perfect time for Illinois to get it together before nationals.
“I feel like it was a little bit of a wake-up call not even winning a game (at conference)” Fabbrini said. “I feel like that could give us a little extra jump here at home and could help us end the regular season the right way. We’re really gearing up for next week, and that’s our ultimate prize.”
Even though the Illini are already looking past Indiana Tech, the senior weekend matchup will not be a cakewalk.
The Warriors come into the weekend showdown with a 21-13-2 record on the season, including a winning record on the road. Indiana Tech narrowly missed a spot in the national tournament and consequently, will be playing its final games of the season in Champaign.ss
With the season in its waning moments, Fabbrini believes that his guys will be able to bring it home this weekend for their five seniors: Jack Soneson, Yoshi Shibata, Mario Pacheco, Kyle Varzino and Olen.
“These guys want to end their careers here the right way: with a sweep.”