Illini add 12 new players after tryouts

The 2013-14 Illini hockey roster is set.

After a three-day tryout, the Illinois hockey team was finalized with the addition of 12 players to complete the 31-man roster.

The 12 new players include defensemen Robert Kokoszka, Mike Fischer, Cody von Rueden, forwards Josh Belmont, Zach Morrison, Matt Flosi, David Christel, Jonathan Gauger, Eric Saulters, and goalies Zach Danna, Zev Grumet-Morris and Joe Olen.

Head coach Nick Fabbrini said more than 80 players signed up in hopes of making the Illini roster, but only 12 were selected from the crop.

The tryouts didn’t feature a traditional skill section, but instead had the players placed on four teams — Red, White, Blue and Black — and the coaches observed the potential players in an in-game setting. After each player played at least three games, Fabbrini said the coaches made their first round of cuts. The “all-star” players who made it to the final round of cuts then played a final game Friday night.

Fabbrini said the coaching staff made its final round of cuts after the all-star game, letting five more players go.

Senior center Eddie Quagliata said the upperclassmen currently on the roster joined the players trying out on the ice in order to give the coaching staff a chance to see how the players meshed with members of the current roster.

“We played on tryout teams every single day,” Quagliata said. “Some of those kids are very, very good. I’m sure they’ll fit in pretty well with our team.”

Prior to tryouts, Fabbrini said the program experimented with a brand-new conditioning camp for three days to prepare each and every player for collegiate ice-time.

“It was nice because it gave us an extra chance to look at some guys,” Fabbrini said about having an extra three days to look at the new players.

The team lost five seniors after last season, but more than doubled that amount by bringing on 12 new players after last week’s tryout.

Quagliata said that while it’s a detriment losing players to graduation, he’s excited for the season to start after seeing the new group of young players during tryouts.

“We lost a couple good players last year, but I think we gained a lot more over the offseason than we lost,” Quagliata said. “We’re going to have a really legitimate team this year and we’re going to have a good shot to win both Leagues and Nationals.”

With just two weeks to get comfortable with the rest of the team, the new players will head into their first competitions this weekend with two road games against the Springfield Jr. Blues and Northern Illinois.

Fabbrini said he expects the new players to fit in well with the current roster by the time the season starts.

“I know a lot of the guys know each other from growing up, so there’s definitely some familiarity and chemistry there,” Fabbrini said. “Hopefully that can carry over to the rest of the team and we can hit the ground running. It’s certainly not going to hurt us.”

Sean can be reached at [email protected] and @Neumannthehuman.