Thu. Jun 30th, 2022

Eight goals. That’s what it took for the University of Illinois to down the West Chester University Golden Rams in the elite eight of the American Collegiate Hockey Association National Tournament. Eight pucks found the twine in a battle of college hockey heavy weights. Here’s the secret though: The loss doesn’t fall on the shoulders of goalie Corey Hackney. Conventional wisdom would pin the loss on the shoulders of a goaltender that lets in eight goals in his club’s most important game of the season, but that simply is not the case here.

The Illini are the fastest team still remaining in the tournament and used their speed up and down the ice to their advantage in Thursday’s win over WCU. For example, two of Illinois’ second period goals were breakaways, leaving Hackney with no defensive help.

There was little throughout the game. At one point midway through the second period, Hackney had allowed three goals. However he stopped 22 of 25 shots at that point. I don’t care if Dominick Hasek or Martin Brodeur are between the pipes, a team that surrenders 25 shots midway through a playoff game has zero shot of coming out on top. When all was said and done, the freshman made 30 saves on 38 Illini shots on goal. The kid should be commended.

This team gained worthwhile experience by marching to the finals of its conference tournament and pulling the upset over Iowa State in the first round of ACHA. Yet improvements need to be made along the blue line before 2008s squad can even think about a second go-round.

Losing captain Rob Troxell is a void that must be filled. Though given this team’s playoff experience and the chemistry that has developed throughout the year, this group seems poised to move on without their leader.

But with a goalie like Hackney between the pipes, the future looks bright for this club.

Matt Lombardo hosts a weekly sports talk radio show on 91.7 WCUR, and is syndicated worldwide at www.wcur.fm on Saturdays from 12:00-2:00 p.m.

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