The Daily Illini

Illinois ready to take on Northern Illinois

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Illinois ready to take on Northern Illinois

James McGing (13) skates down the ice in a breakaway against the Chicago Cougars at the Ice Arena on Friday, Dec. 9, 2016.

James McGing (13) skates down the ice in a breakaway against the Chicago Cougars at the Ice Arena on Friday, Dec. 9, 2016.

Elisabeth Neely

James McGing (13) skates down the ice in a breakaway against the Chicago Cougars at the Ice Arena on Friday, Dec. 9, 2016.

Elisabeth Neely

Elisabeth Neely

James McGing (13) skates down the ice in a breakaway against the Chicago Cougars at the Ice Arena on Friday, Dec. 9, 2016.

By Erich Fisher, Staff writer

The Illinois hockey team is coming off their first road sweep of the season after they taking down Illinois State.

The total goals and shots were heavily swayed in Illinois’ favor as they outscored Illinois State 12-2 and out shot them 89-52.

“One of the keys for us and its always been a key for us is making sure our work rate is where it’s needed,” Illinois head coach Nick Fabbrini said. “In the past I think we have kind of gotten bogged down too much when we have tried to play a skill game. Through the first four games, we’ve done a great job of outworking the other team.

If this kind of offensive production continues for Illinois, it is going to be bad news for the 2-4 Northern Illinois team which is allowing an average of 4.67 goals per game.

The Huskies could struggle offensively against the Illini this weekend, too. While they are scoring a solid 3.5 goals per game, the Illini defense is suffocating their opponents, giving up an average of .75 goals through four games.

Senior goaltender David Heflin got both the starts this weekend against Illinois State and improved his record to 3-0 on the year with a goals allowed average of one and a save percentage of .961.

However, Heflin will not be seeing any starts in the upcoming series against the Huskies. Fabbrini wants to give him a chance to rest in preparation for their games against McKendree University on Oct. 13 and 14.

Instead, sophomore goaltenders Ross Lipic and Jake Barnhart will be splitting the starts.

This will be Barnhart’s first start of the season, while Lipic’s first and only start came against Michigan State on Sept. 23. Lipic recorded his first career shutout in that game, which was his first career start.

The Illini’s leading point scorers heading into the weekend are senior forward James McGing with nine points (three goals, six assists), and followed surprisingly by two freshmen in Jon Moskaluk (four goals, two assists) and Andrew Richter (one goal, five assists) with six points each. Another freshman, defenseman Joe Nolan, is not far behind with five points (one goal, four assists).

“They’re good hockey players,” Fabbrini said. “We knew coming in these guys were going to have an impact.”

The Illini’s fourth line has been making significant contributions this year with four points already to its name. Freshman forward Justin Reis has two goals. Fabbrini said when Illinois gets contributions from all four lines, it is going to be tough to beat, .

With players starting to recover from injuries, Fabbrini just wants his team ready to compete.

“It doesn’t matter who it is or where we are playing, we just need to be at our best,” Fabbrini said.

@ETFisher24

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