Illini hockey wins home opener

The first win at home came with ease.

Illinois hockey cruised to a 6-0 win in its home opener against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville on Friday night.

Assistant captain Matt Welch scored two goals, stepping up in the absences of captain Austin Bostock and assistant captain Mike Evans, while senior goaltender Nick Clarke earned his first shutout of the season after a dominating performance in net.

“We’re running out of adjectives to describe him,” Fabbrini said. “He does everything for us. He’s our backbone.”

Clarke stopped three breakaway opportunities late in the third period. He also instigated scrums around the net, which triggered tensions between the two teams early in the game after he knocked over the Cougars’ reigning goal leader Brett DeNap during a scuffle in the crease.

“I mean, we got a power play out of it,” Clarke said with a smile. “If I’m not getting many shots, that kind of stuff keeps me in the game.”

The tensions boiled over between the two teams midway through the third period. After senior John Scully took a heavy hit in the corner from SIU-Edwardville’s Blake Varady, Scully delivered a slash to Varady’s leg, which led to a few scuffles between players around the ice and resulted in three minor penalties.

“He was coming over and I thought he was going to go after me, so I kind of reacted and that’s unacceptable on my part,” Scully said. “I didn’t mean to get him that good.”

Scully said he later apologized and the two players shook off the animosity.

Despite a few disciplinary issues, Fabbrini said he was happy with his team’s performance Friday night.

“It was a big step in the right direction for us,” Fabbrini said. “Anytime you win six to nothing, it’s kind of hard to really find things to complain about.”

The team’s offensive production helped seal the Illini’s victory in the second period after Matt Welch scored the Illini’s fourth goal of the night, giving a subtle bow to the hometown crowd.

“After we had three goals, it was starting to get out of reach,” Scully said. “We knew if we could put in that fourth one that would just about do it, but to put up six goals and get Clarke the shutout? That’s definitely the way you draw it up.”

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