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Illinois sweeps weekend contest

Neil+Novosel+skates+past+Lindenwood%E2%80%99s+players+to+gain+possession+of+the+puck+at+the+Ice+Arena+on+Dec.+1.++Illini+won+in+overtime+2-1.
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Illinois sweeps weekend contest

Neil Novosel skates past Lindenwood’s players to gain possession of the puck at the Ice Arena on Dec. 1.  Illini won in overtime 2-1.

Neil Novosel skates past Lindenwood’s players to gain possession of the puck at the Ice Arena on Dec. 1. Illini won in overtime 2-1.

Elisabeth Neely

Neil Novosel skates past Lindenwood’s players to gain possession of the puck at the Ice Arena on Dec. 1. Illini won in overtime 2-1.

Elisabeth Neely

Elisabeth Neely

Neil Novosel skates past Lindenwood’s players to gain possession of the puck at the Ice Arena on Dec. 1. Illini won in overtime 2-1.

By Jared Farmer, Staff Writer

After two intense games that came down to the wire, the Illini swept the No. 7 Bronchos.

“This weekend, tonight especially, you could see a lot of the guys get frustrated with some of the stuff going on away from the play, but I think we did a good job sticking to our game and our process,” said head coach Nick Fabbrini. “A lot of times we talk about playing the full 60 minutes, sticking to our game plan and not panicking during the closing moments. I think it truly is a testament to us believing in what our guys can do.”

Friday’s match started off with both squads locking down defensively. The two teams exchanged penalties during the opening period, but neither team was able to score a goal.

Both teams continued to play hard-nosed defense, keeping the game scoreless to start the second, but Central Oklahoma got the first goal of the game from a shot by Matt Davies. Things continued to go south from there, as the Bronchos scored a second goal early in the third to go up 2-0.

Late in the third, momentum swung in favor of the Illini. Junior forward Neil Novosel put Illinois on the board and fellow junior Jon Moskaluk tied the game with another quick goal, forcing the game into overtime.

In the overtime shootout, both teams missed their shots at the goal until freshman forward Kacper Ryba scored to put the Illini up 3-2. A final save on a Central Oklahoma shot by junior goalkeeper Jake Barnhart secured the comeback for an Illinois victory.

“I thought we played a really strong game,” Fabbrini said. “We came out and set the tone early, and I really thought we were the better team for all three periods. We had a little bit of a lull in the second where we gave up a few chances and started, and obviously, it’s not ideal to give up another goal within the first 30 seconds, but I can’t say enough about how these guys performed this weekend.”

Saturday’s rematch started off scoreless in the first, but by the six-minute mark the Bronchos had gotten on the board, 1-0. Sophomore forward Jack Healy would respond at the 4:44 mark with a goal to tie the match, ending the first period.

Seventeen seconds into the second period, Ryba scored his second goal of the weekend to put Illinois up 2-1, but Central Oklahoma immediately responded with a goal of its own to tie the score back up.

Going into the third, both teams went back and forth for five minutes. Sophomore Drew Richter sank his shot on the goal off of an assist from Healy to put Illinois up 3-2. The next five minutes of the third was a dogfight, ending in a brawl between Austin Cunningham of Central Oklahoma and Healy of Illinois.

Central Oklahoma grew more aggressive in its attack. As the period went on, the physicality continued, with sticks and gloves of both teams flying. The Bronchos attacked relentlessly, but the Illini were able to hold off and iced the game after a goal by Novosel with 23 seconds remaining. With this win, the Illini improve to 6-3 in the season.

“I think that after what most of these guys have gone through over the years, and understanding what we’re capable of as a group, I don’t think that there’s any panic in our game,” Fabbrini said. “I think that these guys believe in what we’re asking (them) to do and in the third period we’re ready to go. We feel as though if we’re in the position to win the game in the third that we have the personnel to do it.”

@Jaredefarmer

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