Illinois hockey makes final cuts

With the regular season on the horizon, head coach Nick Fabbrini has finalized the roster for the new-look Illinois hockey team.

Fabbrini has replaced last year’s graduating class with 10 newcomers to the program, including six freshmen, three sophomores and one senior. Out of the new arrivals, six are slotted to play forward, two will man the blue line and two will mind the net.

The influx of forwards gives the Illini newfound depth that hasn’t been seen in the past few seasons.

“Our front line is absolutely stacked,” junior goalie Nick Clarke said. “The new coaching staff and recruits have really impressed me so far and I’m excited to see what we can accomplish this year.”

Among the new forwards bolstering the Illini front lines are freshmen “John Olen”:, Kevin Chowaniec, Dan Easley and Daniel Kerr, as well as sophomores Mario Pacheco and Kyle Varzino. Fabbrini expects many, if not all, of his young core of recruits to pay immediate dividends in the offensive end.

Expecting all six to play important roles, Fabbrini sees Olen and Chowaniec as strong candidates to make the biggest impact out of the new recruits. Olen and Chowaniec are both coming off strong seasons prior to joining the Illini, combining for 24 goals and 17 assists for their respective teams.

The defense, widely considered Illinois’ soft spot, is improved through the addition of sophomore Kyle Clark and senior Anthony Carlsen. The two defensemen bring much-needed depth and experience to a group that lacked it.

Carlsen, a senior, previously played for the Illini as an underclassman, but decided to take some time off from the game in order to pursue an internship and focus on academics.

“I played for the D-2 team my sophomore year before I decided to take some time off,” he said. “Going into my senior year I decided to try out again because I really missed competing out on the ice.”

Carlsen joins junior Ben Burbridge and senior Mike Evans as the only three upperclassmen manning the blue lines for the Illini. Carlsen believes the lack of experience at the position is a non-factor.

“What we lack in experience is made up for in work ethic and overall talent,” he said. “I think we have a solid core of defensemen who will all contribute in different areas.”

Additionally, starting goalie Nick Clarke will be joined in the crease by freshmen Robert Schmidt and Mike Gordon. Schmidt and Gordon both saw time between the pipes against Springfield, combining to make 13 saves on 15 shots in a “series split. “:

With less than a week until the team opens up the season against Michigan State, Fabbrini said he thinks the team is ready from a camaraderie standpoint despite the overhaul.

“I think the guys are starting to form quite a bit of chemistry,” he said. “Between our practices and our dry land workouts, I think the guys are really starting to come together as a group already which is a great sign, considering we’ve only been practicing for two weeks.”

_Blake can be reached at [email protected] and @BlakeP._