The Daily Illini

Illinois men’s hockey gets overtime split at Ohio

Joey+Ritondale+skates+back+into+Illinois%E2%80%99+zone+after+Robert+Morris+gains+possession+of+the+puck+at+the+University+of+Illinois+Ice+Arena+on+Feb.+18.+Illinois+fell+to+Robert+Morris%2C+3-2.
Joey Ritondale skates back into Illinois’ zone after Robert Morris gains possession of the puck at the University of Illinois Ice Arena on Feb. 18. Illinois fell to Robert Morris, 3-2.

Joey Ritondale skates back into Illinois’ zone after Robert Morris gains possession of the puck at the University of Illinois Ice Arena on Feb. 18. Illinois fell to Robert Morris, 3-2.

Elisabeth Neely

Elisabeth Neely

Joey Ritondale skates back into Illinois’ zone after Robert Morris gains possession of the puck at the University of Illinois Ice Arena on Feb. 18. Illinois fell to Robert Morris, 3-2.

By Brian Binz, Staff writer

Another Saturday road overtime for the Illinois men’s hockey team meant one thing: It was time for Joey Ritondale to do his thing.

Ritondale scored the game-winning goal with under a minute to go in overtime to give No. 5-ranked Illinois a split on the road against No. 4-ranked Ohio this weekend.

“I don’t know if offensive force is the right word,” said head coach Nick Fabbrini. “But he’s been a big contributor for us this year.”

It was Ritondale’s second overtime game-winner on the road. He had the game-winning goal to beat Iowa State on Jan. 27.

“He’s playing with a lot of confidence right now,” Fabbrini said. “Can’t say enough about the senior captain scoring overtime goals as a defenseman. It doesn’t happen all that often.”

Illinois dropped the first game after leading 3-2 heading into the third period. The Illini lost their lead, and goalie David Heflin was injured after Ohio scored the go-ahead goal on Friday night. Shortly after, they added another securing a 5-3 win. 

Saturday was a different story, with Ohio blowing a lead this time around. Illinois’ James McGing scored with under three minutes to level the score.

Ritondale crashed through a scrum near the goal in overtime, sliding the puck past the Ohio keeper to break the deadlock and sending the Illinois bench into a frenzy. The bench cleared instantly upon Ritondale’s goal as the team swarmed out to celebrate the game-winner. 

Fabbrini said Heflin’s injury wasn’t too serious, and he’d be out for “maybe one weekend or two at worst.”

In the meantime, the Illini will lean on Jake Barnhart in goal. After Saturday’s result, with Barnhart holding his own against a talented Bobcat squad, Fabbrini isn’t worried.

“He was calm and made some big saves,” Fabbrini said. “He weathered the storm early.”

Barnhart made 24 saves on 27 shots Saturday, a week after only giving up one goal against Illinois State. The Illini outshot the Bobcats 37-27 on Saturday, forcing 33 saves from Ohio goalie Jimmy Thomas.  

With the split series, the Illini moved to 20-8-0-2 on the season. Ohio is now 24-7-2.

“It would have been easy to pack it in (on Saturday) … but we didn’t,” Fabbrini said.

The Illini’s road doesn’t get much easier from here, and with the CSCHL and ACHA playoffs looming, the team will have to maintain its focus and take the upcoming weeks to ensure it is as ready as possible.

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