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Illini look to learn from recent losses

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Illini look to learn from recent losses

Evan Sabo (28) skates up to the boards to take possession of the puck from McKendree at the Ice Arena on Friday, Oct. 13th. Illinois beat McKendree 4-2.

Evan Sabo (28) skates up to the boards to take possession of the puck from McKendree at the Ice Arena on Friday, Oct. 13th. Illinois beat McKendree 4-2.

Evan Sabo (28) skates up to the boards to take possession of the puck from McKendree at the Ice Arena on Friday, Oct. 13th. Illinois beat McKendree 4-2.

Evan Sabo (28) skates up to the boards to take possession of the puck from McKendree at the Ice Arena on Friday, Oct. 13th. Illinois beat McKendree 4-2.

By Jared Farmer, Staff Writer

The road wasn’t friendly to the Illini hockey team this past weekend.

Going into last Thursday’s match against Minot State, the Illini held on to their No. 3 overall ranking in the ACHA but came out of the weekend with three straight losses to the Minot State Beavers and the Jamestown Jimmies.

“Obviously, we didn’t want to come home with three losses, especially with two going to overtime,” said junior forward Evan Sabo. “They were all close games, but I think it was a matter of capitalizing on our chances and staying disciplined throughout the games to come out with a win. We just didn’t do that last weekend.”

In Thursday’s game against Minot State, an early goal attempt by Kacper Ryba was blocked mid-flight by the Beavers’ goaltender Josh Bykowski. The Illini also had a 5-on-3 opportunity halfway through the first, but they couldn’t convert it into a score.

Minot State got on the board first in the second period after a goal from Davis Sheldon, and Illinois responded when Justin Ries scored his fourth goal of the season to tie the score 1-1. Playing a 3-on-3 overtime period, the Beavers’ Eric Bollefer iced the game with a goal just two minutes into the period, giving the Illini their first loss of the weekend.

The Illini then headed to Jamestown for their next two games against the Jimmies. Illinois gave up the first goal of the game just 17 seconds after the opening face-off. However, six minutes into the second period, Charley Salk would find the back of the Jimmies’ net to even the score 1-1.

The Jimmies responded quickly with another goal two minutes later, then the teams traded goals to finish the second period up 3-2. The Illini picked up their next loss of the weekend after going scoreless in the third period.

The Illini went into Saturday looking to prevent the Jimmies from sweeping the series. A goal by Luke Forfar six minutes into the first period put Illinois up 1-0, but Jamestown’s Dylan Hanley would respond two minutes later with a goal to tie. The two teams would again trade points in the second period, which led them to overtime after going scoreless again in the third. The game almost ended up in a shootout, but in the closing seconds of overtime, Jamestown’s Cameron Todd scored a goal to complete the sweep on Illinois.

“A lot of it came down to turnovers and not running our system and playing our game,” Sabo said. “That means moving our feet and playing hard the full sixty minutes throughout the whole game, and I don’t think we did that.”

Illinois will be looking to bounce back as it returns home to play a crucial series against No. 7 ranked University of Central Oklahoma. The Illini remain undefeated at home, going 4-0. Central Oklahoma is 5-3 on the season and 2-3 on the road.

“At this point, I think just bearing down is important for us,” Sabo said. “I know that sounds simple, but really running our system, not committing too many turnovers and just making sure we’re getting to the puck first and moving around the whole game is important. We had a few penalties in both Minot and Jamestown that put us at a disadvantage as well, so as long as we stay disciplined and play our game, we should be fine going into next weekend.”

@jaredefarmer

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