Hockey disappointed with power play production against Indiana

Illinois hockey head coach Chad Cassel is running out of wakeup calls for his special teams.

The Illini went 0-for-9 on the power play this weekend with a depleted special teams that struggled to finish its opportunities against divisional opponent Indiana in the first CSCHL series of the year.

“Special teams overall are always huge,” Cassel said. “We were open ended on the power play and we gave up a power play goal (Saturday). It’s the difference.”

Cassel has been adamant about drilling special teams into his team as a point of consistency. Although it is still early in the season, Cassel has yet to see the production he’s been looking for on the power play.

“I think we had some chances,” captain Tim Gilbert said. “Power play was pretty brutal all weekend to tell you the truth … I don’t know if it’s changing up the personnel a little bit or mix matching the two power plays we have and switching up the guys. We have to find something that starts clicking because 0-for-9 is unacceptable.”

On Saturday, Illinois played without defenseman Justin Wirt, who dislocated his shoulder Friday night. Wirt has been one of most crucial elements on the power play as he uses his dangerous slap shot from the point that he can rifle past the goaltender. Illinois was also missing freshman Austin Bostock with a torn ligament in his thumb. One of the Illini’s most consistent and skilled players on the power play, Bostock is tied with Wirt for the lead with two power play goals.

“It was big we were missing Wirt and Austin Bostock,” Cassel said. “Wirt has been outstanding on the power play for us all year, and Austin has great touch in tight around the net finishing.”

Illini disappointed in 5-for-78 scoring over weekend

In the first three series of the young season, it seemed Illinois could send any of its offensive lines out on the ice and someone would step up and produce. The widespread production was a welcome change from last year, when it seemed each game Illinois was waiting for Brad Hoelzer, JJ Heredia or Tom Connell to do his part.

This weekend, the Illini learned that chances don’t always convert to goals. After 78 shots on goal, Illinois could only put five tallies on the scoreboard.

“Finishing goals is huge for us,” Gilbert said. “We got the opportunities and next week against Iowa State, who has been a tougher team in the past, it’s only going to make it tougher to score because we’re not going to see as many opportunities.”

Cardona extends goal-scoring lead

Andrew Cardona scored three out of the Illini’s five goals this weekend, and one of the five was an empty net goal in the last minute of Friday’s game by Eddie Quagliata. After this weekend Cardona increased his team-leading goal count to eight, three over linemate Mike McBride, who scored the other goal this weekend.

“I’m just doing the little things I guess,” Cardona said. “Sometimes I get lucky. I’ve been setup by my linemates pretty well so I can’t take all the credit.”

Cardona and McBride’s line included freshman John Scully in the absence of Bostock, and the line responded well, generating almost all the offense in the series.

“I think we just clicked this weekend,” Cardona said. “We had a good week of practice with each other. I’ve been playing with McBride all year and we feed off each other pretty well. We know each other’s tendencies, and I think that helps a lot when you go into the offensive and defensive zones.”