Illinois splits weekend matchup

By Jared Farmer, Staff Writer

The Illinois Hockey team traded wins against Robert Morris at the Big Pond over the weekend. Coming off two losses against Lindenwood, the recovering Illini squad came in looking to get back on track Friday.

“I thought we played a pretty strong game on Friday. It took us a little while to really get into our game, but once we did, I think we did a really good job of playing the way that we want to play,” said head coach Nick Fabbrini. “When we play hard, fast and simple, that’s when we’re at our best.”

The Illini controlled the pace and set the tone throughout the entirety of Friday’s match. After scoring two goals in the first two periods, Illinois rallied and took over the game in the final period with four more goals. Sophomore Drew Richter led all scorers with two goals on the evening while junior Bobby Ernsting assisted on four of the six Illinois goals.

The Illini held the Eagles scoreless throughout Friday’s match and maintained control on the defensive side of the ice. It was the third time this season the Illini shut out an opponent at the UI Ice Arena.

“I really put it towards my linemates getting into open space and giving me the opportunity to make a play,” Ernsting said. “On Friday, we had a bit of jump in our step, and we were all over their defense getting pucks past them and bodying up, which I think set the tone for the rest of our team.”

Saturday’s rematch had a different tone. Both teams were deadlocked in a defensive battle with the Illini receiving no penalties the entire evening. The first period was a stalemate with neither team getting on the board.

The trend continued for most of the second period, with both teams refusing to give the other an inch. The Eagles would be the first to get on the board, with senior Joe Molfetta scoring their first goal of the weekend.

The Illini responded by taking advantage of a power play opportunity and tying the game at 1-1 behind a late goal by senior Luke Forfar. Neither team managed to score in the last four minutes, but the Illini gave up the game-winning goal after failing to clear the puck from their side of the net, just over a minute into sudden-death overtime.

After splitting the weekend, the Illini are now to 7-6 on the season. The loss on Saturday marks their first loss at home this season. Meanwhile, the Eagles are now 5-7 on the season.

“Our energy level was flat the whole game on Saturday,” Fabbrini said. “You’ve got to give them credit; they did a good job of keeping us on the outside and making things difficult for us. It just felt like we didn’t have that same jump tonight.”

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