Illini hockey wins one, loses one to start out Fabbrini era

The Nick Fabbrini era is under way, with mixed results, as the Illinois hockey team split its inaugural regular season matches against Michigan State.

Illinois lost 5-4 in a shootout Friday but came back with a 4-2 victory Saturday.

Despite recent success “against the Spartans”:, which included the Illini winning nine of their last 10, penalties and defensive lapses left the Illini (1-0-1) a little disappointed.

On opening night, the Illini came roaring out of the gates. Freshman “John Olen”: wasted no time contributing in his debut when he netted a power-play goal just 4:07 into the first period.

“It was awesome,” Olen said. “The fans were awesome; it was loud. It was really fun.”

After Michigan State countered with its first goal seven minutes later, fellow freshman Kevin Chowaniec scored a goal on the power play with just under a minute left in the opening period.

“The first period, I thought we played really well,” “Fabbrini said”: “We really used our speed to our advantage … but the second period we got away from all the stuff that worked in the first. Basically, we played about as bad as we have all year.”

The second period saw four Illini penalties, which resulted in the tying and go-ahead goals for the Spartans — within 33 seconds of each other. Senior defenseman Kent Kovalsky was assessed a five-minute major penalty for spearing at the time of the first goal.

The ensuing power play would result in two Michigan State goals to push its advantage to 4-2.

With just under four minutes remaining in the game and many fans filing out to the exits, the Illini offense came to life when junior forward Eddie Quagliata put home an unassisted goal to bring Illinois within one. In the final minute of regulation, Fabbrini pulled junior goalie Nick Clarke to bring on an extra attacker for one last crack at the equalizer.

Quagliata dished off a pass to Olen, who put on a quick move and buried his second goal of the game to tie it at 4-4, and bring the Illini fans to their feet.

“I shortened the bench (the last few minutes),” Fabbrini said. “I didn’t expect to do that this soon, but some guys just weren’t playing.”

Overtime saw no goals and brought the deciding factor to a shootout. Olen stepped up first for Illinois and beat Michigan State goalie Derek Hess, but it was the only goal for the Illini in five rounds, losing 2-1 in the shootout.

Saturday’s game again saw the Illini strike first, when Quagliata scored his second goal in as many days to start the scoring for Illinois. With the score tied 1-1 after the first period, the

second saw an explosion of goals and penalties from both sides.

Illinois scored a trio of goals from junior Austin Bostock and sophomores Mario Pacheco and Jon Langan.

However, the second also saw eight penalties for the Illini — 10 for the game — which turned into an unassisted goal for Michigan State’s Trevor McSween.

The third period saw no scoring thanks to the play of Clarke. He made a diving save across the net to prevent a potential goal and any thoughts of a comeback for Michigan State.

Although happy to get the 4-2 win, his first as a head coach, Fabbrini wasn’t satisfied with the weekend’s performance.

“I think it was a big improvement,” Fabbrini said. “But I think we have a lot of room to get better. We made a lot of mistakes, simple mistakes that we shouldn’t be making, ever.”

Five of six Michigan State goals on the weekend came on the power play, so the penalty kill will have to improve if the Illini want to reach their goals at the end of the year.

Stephen can be reached at [email protected] and @steve_bourbon.