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Illinois hockey head coach Nick Fabbrini happy about progression of team

Illinois%27+Nick+Fabbrini+walks+back+to+the+bench+after+the+Ohio+hockey+game+at+the+Ice+Arena+on+Friday%2C+October+24%2C+2014.+The+Illini+won+2-1.+
Illinois' Nick Fabbrini walks back to the bench after the Ohio hockey game at the Ice Arena on Friday, October 24, 2014. The Illini won 2-1.

Illinois' Nick Fabbrini walks back to the bench after the Ohio hockey game at the Ice Arena on Friday, October 24, 2014. The Illini won 2-1.

Kevin Vongnaphone | Senior photo

Kevin Vongnaphone | Senior photo

Illinois' Nick Fabbrini walks back to the bench after the Ohio hockey game at the Ice Arena on Friday, October 24, 2014. The Illini won 2-1.

By Erich Fisher, Staff writer

Illinois hockey head coach Nick Fabbrini has not had to worry about working with a blank slate this season.

A lot of last year’s chemistry is still present since the team has over a dozen players returning. However, the Illini are not short of new players joining the squad either.

With that said, Fabbrini is still pleased with where his team currently is at this point of the season.

“Yeah [I’m happy],” Fabbrini said. “We have a lot of new guys this year, but a lot of them have been able to pick up what we are trying to do here.”

There have been growing pains with this team, according to Fabbrini. There is an adjustment that has to be made in order for the Illini to play their style of hockey.

More specifically, Fabbrini feels there has been more of a learning curve on the defensive end with Illinois.

“Our biggest concern is getting in-depth defensively. Against Springfield, we were playing a little loose at times,” Fabbrini said. “In practice and in the weeks since, it hasn’t been great; it’s been OK. By Friday, I think we will have it to where we want.”

While he feels like the play in their own zone is in need of improvement, Fabbrini is feeling good about how the Illini’s offense will perform this year and credits that to being deeper through all four lines compared to last season’s team.

“I think we are going to have three or four lines that are going to be able to score or chip in offensively on a nightly basis,” Fabbrini said. “We got scoring from a bunch of different guys in Springfield, scoring eight goals in two games.”

Fabbrini thinks that being a deeper team this year is going to help the Illini remain competitive, but he doesn’t know if that is going to give them an advantage. According to Fabbrini, if you ask other teams around the league about their depth, they will say that they can play four lines pretty consistently depending on the night.

With the injuries already beginning to pile up, such as already senior forward Shaunak Pal being ruled out for the season due to nerve damage in his shoulder, depth like Illinois possesses is going to be put to the ultimate test.

Even though the season hasn’t started yet for the Illini, it is evident that the chemistry between the new and returning players is already starting to develop.

“Guys are getting comfortable on both campus and [on the team], while they are adjusting to a new environment and players that have been here for three years,” Fabbrini said. “We have a really good group of guys, too. It’s great when you see seniors joking around with the freshman on the ice. The best hockey teams I’ve ever played on certainly were the closet to each other off the ice.”

When comparing last year’s team with this year’s, Fabbrini is not certain whether the two are the same when it comes to their progression at this point, but he is certain of one thing.

“In terms of where we want to be, I don’t think where we are currently is really where we are hoping to be at the finish line,” Fabbrini said. “Right now, there are a lot of little holes that can only get fixed by playing games.”

@ETFisher24

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