Illini hockey takes home three CSCHL awards

Lacing up the skates five days a week and shooting hundreds of pucks, as well as giving and taking body checks during the lengthy, grueling, seven-month season, has paid off for three Illinois hockey players.

Senior forward Sam Fatigato, freshman defenseman JT Turner and sophomore goaltender Nick Clarke were selected to receive 2011-12 Central States Collegiate Hockey League (CSCHL) awards. Illini captain Fatigato was named to the all-defensive team. He finished his four-year career with the Illini with 177 games played, collecting 27 goals and 35 assists for 62 points.

Fatigato attributed a lot of his success to head coach Chad Cassel, who retired after 15 seasons with the team.

“It feels good to receive some recognition for the little things you put into your game away from the offensive side,” Fatigato said. “In my four years here, (Cassel) has put me in a lot of defensive situations, and I have really built my career around being solid defensively.”

Turner was named to the CSCHL’s all-rookie team. He logged big minutes for the Illini as a freshman, playing in 27 of 34 games this season, scoring two goals and adding four assists.

“Turner was one of our best rookies and Fatigato was one of the most consistent guys in the lineup,” Clarke said. “Both of them made my job a lot easier.”

“It felt good to get the award,” Turner said. “I was honestly a bit surprised because there are so many good, young players in the league, including Derek Schultz, who was a key player for us this year. I thought he had a great chance of getting it as well.”

Clarke finished the season with 23 starts, a 2.91 goals against average and a .895 save percentage on his way to the CSCHL 2nd team all-league honor.

“I was surprised when I first found out,” he said. “But it is an honor, and I’m excited to see what I’m able to accomplish in my next two years here.”