Illini hockey looks forward to season

The+Illini+Hockey+team+stretches+for+their+practice+at+the+Ice+Arena+on+Tuesday.

Brian Bauer

The Illini Hockey team stretches for their practice at the Ice Arena on Tuesday.

By Kelly Johnson, Editor-in-Cheif

The Illini club hockey team will open its 2019-2020 season against Illinois State Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Illinois Ice Arena. 

The Illini are looking forward to their season opener, feeling confident their hard work in practice will translate to beating the Redbirds. This year’s practices have been about maintaining focus and game energy. 

“In years past there were times where practice was a little softer,” said President and Forward Charley Salk, senior in LAS. “Guys weren’t competing in practice as if it were a game. This year we’re all competing as if it is a game.” 

Illinois ended last season with a loss to Minot State, who went on to win the Men’s Division I National Championship in the American Collegiate Hockey Association.

Illini ended ranked No. 11, with an 18-15-5 record. But, their pre-season ranking for 2019-2020 is staying consistent, and the teams in the No. 11 place again. 

The team has high goals for the upcoming season, starting with winning its first two games against ISU. Later on into the season, Illinois is looking to beat rival Ohio University, win the CHHL and ultimately the National Championship. 

“Every team in our league is very strong, it’s a small league with about five teams,” said Treasurer and Forward Neil Novosel, senior in Business. 

The Illini are looking forward to competing in their regular season but are also getting excited for the fun that comes with being on the team. 

Novosel is looking forward to road games.

“Getting off campus, (and) clearing your mind about everything on campus, hanging out with the guys, (and) team bonding,” Novosel said. 

Team bonding for the Illini often includes playing practical jokes on each other, whether it’s sticking candy in sleeping roommates mouth, hiding each other phones or having “shoe checks” at restaurants. 

“A shoe check is when we go to a restaurant,” Salk said. “You’re sitting at 3-4 tables as a team and you sneakily apply ketchup to someone’s shoe. The objective is for them to not notice, and then someone yells ‘shoe check’ and you look at your shoes. If you’re the guy with ketchup on his shoes, you have to stand up on your chair and sing a song.” 

The Illini are hopeful to have a successful season on the ice, but they are also hoping to have a good season in the bleachers. Increasing the number of students who attend home games is also a top priority. 

“We’re trying to get more people in the rink, students this year,” Salk said. “We have a lot of Champaign attendance – parents and kids, (student) attendance has lagged considerably in the last three years, which is weird because we’ve gotten better. The games are really fun and early enough to go out after.” 

The Illini will be working hard to increase student attendance in games by tabling on the quad and handing out free tickets. 

“There’s so many teams you can go see on campus lose, why not come watch us win,” Salk said.

 

[email protected]