Illini hockey looks to move forward after tough weekend

The Illinois hockey team returned home from its conference matchup against No. 2 Arizona State with two more losses, extending its losing streak to four. But despite their opponent’s top-tier talent, the Illini are making no excuses.

“There’s not a lot of time to feel sorry for ourselves,” head coach Nick Fabbrini said. “We’ve got another really good team coming in, so we’re right back at it again this week. I think our competitive level needs to be higher. We’re going to re-emphasize a lot of things that we’ve kind of been stressing since the beginning of the year and hasn’t really gotten all the way through yet.”

A large focus in practice this week will be avoiding penalties and defending the power play, as the Illini players were in the penalty box for a total of 56 minutes over the weekend.

When asked about the team’s discipline, senior forward John Scully said it isn’t something that can necessarily be worked on in practice.

“That’s something where you’ve kind of just got to bear down and focus,” Scully said. “Everyone on the team’s guilty of it, myself included. We put Arizona State on the power play a couple times and they made us pay for it almost every time. But if we don’t give them those chances and we capitalize on ours, it might be a completely different weekend and it might be a different outlook going into next weekend.”

Along with the problem of discipline, Fabbrini put an emphasis on Illinois’ lack of goal scoring last weekend.

“We’re going to be trying some different line combinations this week in practice,” Fabbrini said. “We’ve got to figure something out. We’re scoring not many goals at all the last couple games. That wasn’t something I foresaw being an issue for us this year. That’s something we’re going to have to work on this week and the next couple of weeks to get better at. It’s tough to win hockey games if you’re not scoring at least 3 goals.”

Fabbrini said that focusing on different line combinations in practice this week won’t automatically fix all of the team’s issues, though.

“You can try different personnel and hope they develop some chemistry from that quickly, but aside from that, our top guys need to be our top guys,” Fabbrini said. “We have a lot of talent and a lot of guys who can score goals and we just need them to start doing it.”

When asked about the team’s recent rough patch, senior captain Austin Bostock had one simple message:

“We just keep moving along.”

Bostock said he is not happy with the recent losses and even though he’s one of the team’s leaders, he doesn’t think there is much he can say in the locker room to fix their troubles.

“I think things just need to be changed on the ice,” Bostock said. “I think enough has been said. I’m personally done with all the talk and the chit chat, I think it just needs to be done. Action needs to be taken on the ice. As much talk as I can do in the locker room or others can do, I think it’s important for guys to just do good out on the ice. Actions speak louder than words at this point.”

Illinois has now dropped to No. 7 in ACHA Division-I. The Illini are deep into their toughest stretch of the season, facing top-15 teams for the next three weekends. Fabbrini believes they need to give maximum effort to establish themselves as a top-five team moving forward.

“At the start of the year — I don’t think we have this anymore — we had this sense of accomplishment because we’re a top-five team, like we’ve done something,” Fabbrini said. “We haven’t done anything. I think these guys realize it now and understand what it takes to be a top-five team. You can’t just show up and expect to win. It’s being mentally prepared and being disciplined in all phases of the game, it’s maximum effort all the time, and that’s something we’re working on still.”

Joey can be reached at [email protected] and @joeyfigueroa3.