Illinois hockey team finishes regular season against Eastern Michigan

Illinois+Josh+Belmont+%2810%29+and+Ohios+Joe+Breslin+%2813%29+battle+for+control+of+the+puck+during+the+CSCHL+Playoffs+semi-finals+v.+Ohio+University+at+the+Ice+Arena+on+Saturday%2C+Feb.+21%2C+2015.+Illinois+lost+3-5.

Illinois’ Josh Belmont (10) and Ohio’s Joe Breslin (13) battle for control of the puck during the CSCHL Playoffs semi-finals v. Ohio University at the Ice Arena on Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015. Illinois lost 3-5.

By Daniel Dexter

With the ACHA tournament a week away, the Illinois hockey team (22-16-1) will look to get its confidence back against Eastern Michigan (9-27-1) in its final home stand of the season.

The Illini are coming off a disappointing 5-3 semifinals defeat in the CSCHL tournament to Ohio in front of the home crowd at the Illinois Ice Arena. Both players and coaches believe Illinois gave the game away to the Bobcats after finishing the first period with a 2-0 lead.

Forward Jon Langan said the Illini spent too much time talking to opposing players instead of holding on to their lead, which ended up costing Illinois the game.

“I don’t have a problem with it when we are winning,” Langan said. “When we are tied in the heat of the game and guys aren’t focusing on the task at hand, that’s when I start having a problem with it.”

The team will attempt to move on from the loss before the national tournament with a sweep of the Eagles. Head coach Nick Fabbrini said this weekend will be an opportunity for the team to get its confidence back and try new line combinations ahead of its first tournament game against John Carroll University.

“We are really going to work on minimizing our mistakes, both physical and mental, because in a week, one mistake could really end our season,” Fabbrini said. “It’s going to be key for us to play a simple game and try to gear up for the games that really matter in a week.”

Eastern Michigan finished the regular season in last place in the GLCHL and will not be participating in the national tournament. Langan said that despite the series having no playoff implications, the team will be taking this game seriously because of the importance of ending the season on a high note.

Fabbrini has cut down on the physicality in practices to keep players fresh heading into the national tournament, but still wants the Illini to treat the weekend like any other matchup.

Defenseman Josh Baker added that it is good for the team to avoid an off weekend because it forces players to maintain their intensity in practice.

“I think off weekends get us away from what we are supposed to be doing at practice,” Baker said. “Sometimes the practices are a little bit easier or not as intense because you know you have a free weekend afterwards. It’s always nice to have these games, just so you can stay in the swing of it and don’t lose focus.”

Aside from a tune up for the postseason, the series will also be a send-off to the Illini’s senior class. Langan, a senior, hopes to give the home fans one final show this weekend, but the main goal will be to prepare for a long postseason run.

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