Eastern Illinois suffered a tough overtime loss in the first game of the season series against the University of Illinois on Friday night in Champaign. Although Eastern took the loss, the Panthers were able to use their 3rd period momentum from Friday nights game to their advantage, coming out of the gate on Saturday afternoon flying all over the ice the second the puck was dropped.
It didn’t take the Panthers long to get on the board after an early first period goal by Senior Zach Yurchak. Yurchak’s backhand wrist-shot on a break-away fooled the goalie and brought the 200+ Eastern fans in attendance to their feet.
Going into the second period with Yurchak’s goal being the only tally on the scoreboard for either team, the game seemed to be a defensive battle…but that was not the case. The scoring heated up for both teams in the second period. U of I added a goal of their own, but Eastern was able to counter by adding two more goals; one by Captain Mike Sorrentino and the other by Jack McDonnell with eight minutes to play in the second frame. The high-scoring period was only a preview of what was to come in the third.
The Fighting Illini did just that…”fight” back, scoring two goals early in the third and silencing the Eastern fans for the first time during the game. With eight minutes left to play in the tie game, the feeling in the University of Illinois Ice Arena was that both teams were heading to a second consecutive overtime game. That feeling quickly changed when Senior, Dan Abernethy, beat goalie Lucas Lambert to take the late lead. Illinois was not fazed by the late goal though as they came right back with a score of their own, tying the game at four just minutes after Abernethy’s go-ahead snipe. The scoring parade continued when Panther forward, Sam Guttosch, found the back of the net to put the panthers ahead until the final buzzer sounded.
With the win the Panthers go to 6-4-2 on the season and will travel to DeKalb this weekend to take on the number eight ranked Northern Illinois University Huskies (9-4) who are coming off a two-game sweep of Loyola University in Chicago this past weekend.
Yurchak also scored in the final seconds on an open net goal.