Column: Illini hockey assumes No. 1 rank

By Wes Anderson

If you buy into the idea that a victory can set a magical season into motion – the ’05 Illini stifling Wake Forest, Aramis Ramirez hitting a walkoff homer against the Brewers last June – then it may well have happened for the Illinois hockey club on Oct. 12. Penn State, the No. 1 team in the country, had come to Champaign for a two-game series.

When Ricky Gomez’s long shot snuck past Nick Signet’s pads with a shootout looming, it took everyone by surprise, including – it seemed – Gomez himself. His postgame interview was prefaced by the kind of team celebration that sent that “hockey smell” all the way up Fifth Street. Since then, the Illini have carved up their schedule, and enter break at 17-0-0.

With the ACHA national tournament looming in late February, it seems there’s some magic brewing at the Ice Arena.