Fighting Illini Come From Behind To Down Bobcats

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The Illinois Fighting Illini scored three unanswered goals in the final period to come back and pull off a 4-3 victory against the Ohio Bobcats at Bird Arena on Friday night.

The Bobcats led 3-1 heading into the third period before surrendering two power play goals and the eventual game-winner.

“[Illinois] is a good team. They’re a hard-working team, they don’t do anything fancy or flashy, but they just get pucks to the net,” Ohio head Coach Jonathan Sheridan said after the game. “That’s what I wanted to do tonight, too, but our guys were reluctant to do that. When you play like that, you obviously see the outcome. You give up three goals and lose a tight game.” 

Eddie Quagliata, John Olen, and Matt Welch were the leaders of the Illini’s comeback, with each player beating Ohio netminder Scott Boyd for a goal at 0:43, 7:53, and 16:15 of the third period.

Boyd made 28 saves in the loss, and was the first time any goalie other than Aaron Alkema saw time in net for the Bobcats in eight games. 

“Aaron’s been our best player since the beginning of the year for sure, and he earned a break. The guys didn’t respond well to that,” Sheridan said. “It’s pretty disappointing to see that when [Alkema] has saved your tail so many times and you can’t save him one, it’s pretty frustrating.” 

That same frustration boiled over in the final seconds of the game, when Ohio’s Pat Spellacy received a roughing penalty for punching Illinois forward Cody von Rueden while the Bobcats were trying to tie the game. Von Rueden had to be helped off the ice and received medical attention for concussion-like symptoms after the game. 

“That’s not how we’re supposed to handle ourselves,” Sheridan said. “I don’t care if we win or lose, we don’t do what we did there at the end.” 

While the end of the game was one to forget for the Bobcats, their start was nearly flawless. 

Like the previous night’s game between the two teams, Ohio got off to an early lead, as Joe Breslin scored his 12th goal of the season with assists from Logan Pfeffer and Tom Whetsel to put Ohio up 1-0 at the time.

Whetsel and Pfeffer would combine for an assist each again when they accounted for the primary and secondary assists on defenseman Duncan Green’s first goal of the year that gave Ohio a 2-1 lead with 3:45 remaining in the opening period.

Pfeffer would go on to add a goal of his own late in the second period, capping off a three point night.

Illinois’ John Scully scored his team-leading 15th goal of the season at 9:51 of the first period to tie the game at one goal apiece at the time.

Ohio’s power play was stagnant, not converting on three opportunities, and making them 0/10 on the man advantage in their past two losses. 

The Bobcats will travel to Bensenville, Ill. for their next series, as they take on the Robert Morris Eagles for the third and fourth times this season. Ohio split their last series with the Robert Morris 1-1 and outscored them 9-5 while the Eagles were ranked No. 2 in the country at the time.

The first game of the series is scheduled for Friday, Jan. 31 and a 7:30 p.m. puck drop at The Edge Ice Arena.