Illinois to face top team in weekend matchup

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Illinois to face top team in weekend matchup

Mark Candotti calls for a pass from his teammate against Robert Morris at the Ice Arena on Nov. 2. Illinois shut out Robert Morris 6-0.

Mark Candotti calls for a pass from his teammate against Robert Morris at the Ice Arena on Nov. 2. Illinois shut out Robert Morris 6-0.

Mark Candotti calls for a pass from his teammate against Robert Morris at the Ice Arena on Nov. 2. Illinois shut out Robert Morris 6-0.

Mark Candotti calls for a pass from his teammate against Robert Morris at the Ice Arena on Nov. 2. Illinois shut out Robert Morris 6-0.

By Jared Farmer, Staff writer

Illini hockey will be put to the test this weekend with a showdown against Lindenwood University at the University of Illinois Ice Arena.

Lindenwood has been a juggernaut in the ACHA the entire season. The Lions remain undefeated at 16-0 and have emerged as the top team in the nation. The team has scored five or more goals in 10 of those games, including a 15-0 shutout against Arkansas. Not to mention, the Lions have also won six games by five or more goals this season.

However, despite the consistent wins, the game will be the first in nearly two months for the Lions, as the team’s regularly scheduled matchup with Ohio University was canceled due to poor weather conditions. The last time they faced the Illini was at home where they dismantled Illinois in 7-2 and 6-0 victories over the weekend.

“We definitely learned that they’re one of the teams we play that doesn’t need our help to create offense,” said head coach Nick Fabbrini. “They’re pretty dynamic offensively and a lot of that comes from their ability to create chances off of their defense, so that’ll be a point of focus for us this week: making sure we’re minimizing our mistakes and making sure we have guys accounted for defensively.”

The Illini are coming off one of their most consistent stretches of the season. Between its 4-0 victory against Ohio University, arguably its best-looking win of the season, and its 3-2 victory against Jamestown last Saturday, Illinois has gone 3-3.

 “On the whole, our first four games back, we’ve played pretty well overall. The first three games especially, I was feeling pretty well for the most part; we were just making critical mistakes and finding ways to lose games, as opposed to making small mistakes and being able to adjust and adapt and cover for those,” Fabbrini said.

Fabbrini mentioned the team struggled after making several big mistakes over the course of the season.  However, after the most recent victory over Jamestown, Fabbrini said he was feeling better about the progression of the season.

Tournament play for the American Collegiate Hockey Association  doesn’t start until the end of March, but the matchup against Lindenwood serves as a measuring stick for an Illinois team that continues to struggle with finding consistency.

“Any time you play the best team in the country, it’s always a good way to test yourself and see where you’re at,” Fabbrini said. “I think that they’re for sure the best team right now and I think that they have a sizeable margin on everybody. They’re 16-0 for a reason, and it’ll be up to us to play our game and make sure we’re all ready to go.”

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