Illini hockey splits weekend series with Robert Morris

The streak has finally been snapped.

The Illinois hockey team ended its seven-game road slump Friday night against Robert Morris, defeating the Eagles 5-2.

Friday’s win extended the Illini’s overall winning streak to three games. Senior forward Andrew Cardona, the team’s leading goal-scorer, notched three points in the game, tallying a pair of goals and an assist. Teammates Scott Barrera and Chris Peter each assisted on two of the team’s five goals.

Senior goaltender Dan Rooney played perfect through two periods before giving up both of the Eagles’ goals midway through the third. Rooney finished the night with 31 saves. The Illini were outshot by a margin of 33-25.

Robert Morris took the second game to split the weekend series at a game apiece. The Illini started strong, with senior forward Joe Sullivan putting them ahead at the 4:31 mark in the first period. However, the Eagles were quick to even up the score just minutes later on a power play opportunity.

The Illini struggled to find the back of the net for the rest of the game, but were able to stay even at 1-1 for the majority of the contest. The Eagles scored with under seven minutes to go and the Illini could not answer, losing 2-1.

Illinois head coach Chad Cassel thought the team played relatively well over the weekend, despite winning only one of two.

“I thought we played very well (on Friday),” Cassel said. “We controlled the game all night and we did a nice job of finishing our opportunities. I think (Rooney) played really great in net all weekend as well. But our problem (on Saturday) was penalties, and that’s what cost us the game.”

Sophomore forward Eddie Quagliata thinks the team can bounce back in the upcoming series against Lindenwood.

“It’s pretty disheartening, losing such a close and hard-fought game,” Qualiata said. “But I think we are a really resilient team. And we are anxious to get back to work this week and are looking forward to two big games against Lindenwood this weekend.”

Cassel confirmed a pair of injuries that may take a toll on the team going forward. Sophomore forward Austin Bostock, the team’s leading point-scorer, suffered an injury early in Saturday’s game and did not return. Senior forward Chris Peter also suffered an injury during the second period of the same game and did not return. Peter ranks second on the team in points amongst defensemen. Cassel said the severity of the injuries was unclear.

Sophomore forward Matt Welch said the injuries will have an effect on the team, but they’re part of the game.

“Hockey’s a contact sport and injuries are going to happen,” Welch said. “We just have to fight through it, and everyone will have to step up individually. (Bostock and Peter) are both very tough guys and I know they’ll bounce back as quick as they can.”