Game one of the two game series this weekend between the Panthers and the Fighting Illini lived up to all the hype. The game started late friday night, but the energy from both teams was still vibrant, not lacking one bit from the second the puck was dropped.
The first period of play started slow for the Panthers, mostly because of an early five-minute major penalty called against Captain, Mike Sorrentino. This was the exact opposite start the Panthers came into the game hoping for, as one of their biggest problems this season has been staying out of the penalty box. After killing the Sorrentino major, the Panthers found themselves in the box yet again towards the end of the first period for a two-minute minor on Zach Yurchack. This time U of I was able to capitalize though, an Adam Stack wrist-shot found the back of the net with 3:18 left to play in the period. The Panthers seemed dejected heading into the locker room for the first intermission, as they played a great period of hockey that was blemished by bad penalties.
Another reason Eastern went into the intermission less than happy is because Senior, Brad Bartosz, had to leave the game with a broken right hand after he suffered a hit while skating with the puck late in the first period. Bartosz will be out for the remainder of the season. This is a major blow for the Panthers, as Bartosz is a senior leader for the team as well as an assistant captain.
After winning a majority of the face-offs and controlling the puck for most of the second period, the Fighting Illini were able to punch in another power-play goal minutes before the second intermission. Sending the Panthers to the locker room losing 2-0. The second period was a lackluster one for Eastern Illinois. They didn’t get many great shot opportunities, and couldn’t keep the puck off of Illinois’ stick’s. Bad penalties becoming the theme again as U of I benefited from the man advantage.
The third period was a whole different story for Eastern Illinois. Coming out of the intermission firing on all cylinders, the Panthers seemed to be rejuvenated and playing with a fiery passion. Early in the third, senior, Sam Guttosch, put the Panthers on the board, slipping a wrist-shot past University of Illinois goalie Brett Carey. Guttosch’s play was the spark plug that Eastern needed. After the goal, EIU was skating faster and hitting harder than their opponent; finally seeming to become used to the larger sheet of ice that Illinois Ice Arena inhabits.
Minutes later, junior defenseman, Jack McDonnell, blasted a slap-shot past Carey on a Panther break-away, knotting the score at two and sending the game to overtime. “I was real fired up,” said McDonnell, “Scoring that goal on my next shift was a huge momentum shift for our team.”
Unfortunately for the Panthers they came out on the losing end of the game as Illinois scored on goalie Andrew Teske in the first minute of overtime. “It was a hard fought battle,” said McDonnell. “I thought the game would have turned out differently, but we will come out flying in the second game and take the win.”
The Panthers (5-5-1) will take on the Fighting Illini (4-7-2) today in Champaign at 4:20 pm in an attempt to split the season series.