No. 12 Illinois drops two-game series to No. 25 Iowa State

By Ken Kazarian, Staff Writer

Illinois hockey lost both games in a two-game series against Iowa State this weekend in a clash of two top-25 teams in the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA). The weekend series was fueled by physical play but the Illini ultimately weren’t able to get the result they wanted; they lost the weekend series by a combined two goals.

The game on Friday night started with the Illini taking a penalty for too many men on the ice.

However, the team bounced back with a goal by sophomore forward Kacper Ryba to put the Illini up early in the first period. Iowa State wasted no time answering with a goal of its own a minute later, tying it at one. The Illini were able to leave the first period with a 2-1 lead thanks to an unassisted goal from senior forward Jon Moskaluk.

The scoring continued in the second period as Iowa State scored a goal off a between-the-legs pass by forward Matthew Moran early in the second period. Most of the second period was a stalemate as both teams continued to play an intensely physical brand of hockey.

17 minutes into the second period, however, Iowa State took a roughing penalty. The Illini broke the tie on the power play with Ryba’s second goal of the game. In the last minute of the period it looked as if the Cyclones had tied the game, but the goal was waved off due to goaltender interference, allowing the Illini to take the lead into the third period.

The third period started with an Illinois penalty one minute and 35 seconds in. The Cyclones made the most of this opportunity, scoring another early period goal on the power play.

Iowa State was able to take the lead for the first time all night almost midway through the period in the high-scoring contest. Trailing by one, the Illini turned up the heat. Senior forward Bobby Ernsting tied the game at four with less than five minutes in the game on a clean shot from the point. Both teams refused to back down from the physical gameplay and overtime was needed.

It looked like the Illini were going to go into overtime up a man as the Cyclones took a penalty with less than 30 seconds in the period. However, overtime would start with three-on-three due to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after the horn sounded in the third.

Iowa State took another penalty in overtime for too many men on the ice, allowing Illinois to turn up the pressure and try and end the game on a shortened power play due to the previous calls. Cyclone goaltender Aaron LaChance stood on his head in overtime, making multiple game-saving stops. One of these saves led to a breakaway, and a shot from the point by forward Max Kamper squeaked by Illinois sophomore goaltender Elliot Gerth, giving Iowa State a 5-4 victory.

“We stress the first two minutes of periods, the last two minutes after periods and the first two minutes after goals. (These are) really crucial times of the hockey game,” said Illinois Coach Nick Fabbrini.

It’s easy to say the game Saturday didn’t get out to the start Illinois was hoping for. Iowa State was able to strike first with a goal from C.J. Basner one minute and 54 seconds into the contest. Both teams took penalties in the middle of this period, but neither power play was able to generate a goal. The Illini would use the momentum from a big save by senior goaltender Jake Barnhart and Braden Stewart was able to tie the game at one apiece. This series sent a wave of energy into the rowdy Saturday night crowd. Illinois scored another goal with less than one minute left thanks to an unassisted goal from Kacper Ryba, his third of the weekend to go along with an assist.

“He’s a really special player,” Fabbrini said.

Fabbrini also gave props to Ryba’s linemates, Bobby Ernsting and Thomas Kolaz.

“We know we can count on those guys to show up every night,” Fabbrini said.

The rest of the game wouldn’t go the Illini’s way. The second period was full of penalties, and eventually the Cyclones were able to tie the game on a power play goal from Payton McSharry, 11:50 into the period. The third frame started as a two-goal tie, but Iowa State was able to take the lead on a Hunter Dolan goal.

The Illini turned it up late in the third, pulling their goalie and calling a timeout on an offensive zone face-off to try and draw something up with the extra attacker. Unfortunately for Illinois, they were unable to score and dropped both games to Iowa State this weekend.

“Sometimes things just don’t go your way,” Fabbrini said. “So hopefully we can bounce back this week and get two wins in Alabama.”

The Illini face off against the Crimson Tide in a weekend series that starts on Jan. 31st.

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@KazarianKen