DOMINIC HOSCHER | Reporter
10-0. Thanks to another offensive outburst and a standout effort in the back, the Lions swept the University of Illinois over the weekend to reach the double-digit mark in wins before even suffering their first loss
Lindenwood won both games on Friday and Saturday by a combined score of 13-2.
“We moved our feet, and moved the puck well,” freshman Shayne Plummer said. “We’re a fast team, so we used that to our advantage and we wore them down over the weekend.”
With Zach Mitchell screening Illinois goaltender Jake Barnhart, Aapo Nurminen was able to blast his shot past the unsuspecting goalie and give the Lions a 1-0 lead with 9:39 left in the period. That lead was short lived, however, as Kacper Ryba started off his strong weekend with a goal two minutes later to equalize the game at 1-1.
A common theme for the Lions this season has been to respond to any form of adversity with force, and they did it again on Friday night. It was all Lindenwood after the tying goal, which led to Victor Lombardi putting the Lions back out in front with a 2-1 advantage, which carried all of the way to the end of the period.
“It’s a confident bunch that we have,” freshman Kyler Newman said. “No matter the situation, we can rely on our goaltender, and can rely on everyone on the ice. We know that stuff isn’t going to go our way, but we’ll bounce back.”
Lindenwood bounced back in a big way in the second, scoring two unanswered goals in the period. First it was Newman, who put the Lions ahead at 3-1. Then it was Alex Kalau who was able to net one past Barnhart, scoring off of Brendan Murphy and Matt Runyon assists. Illinois stayed in the game despite trailing in shots by 36-19 with a late goal by Ryba, his second of the game.
Ryba’s second was his team’s last of the night and the weekend. Newman got back onto the scoresheet in the third period with a goal assisted by Alex Kalau. It was the freshman’s first multi-goal game of his collegiate career.
“For me, it’s been a bit of an adjustment,” Newman said. “It’s also a credit to the teammates. When we have four lines going 60 [minutes] and a goaltender who doesn’t let up, other teams can’t handle it. No matter if I score two, or whoever scores two, it’s a credit to the team.”
A strong performance Friday night was followed up by an even stronger showing on Saturday, as Lindenwood overwhelmed Illinois from top to bottom in the second game of the series. Plummer took less than six minutes to open the scoring for the Lions, after being set up by Kalau and Austin Wilk.
Doubling Lindenwood’s lead later in the first period was senior Jake Townsend, who continued his explosive start to the season with a screamer into the netting to make it 2-0 in favor of the hosts. As has been the case all year, the Lions weren’t just seeing goals from their veteran players, but also the newcomers.
“It shows how deep we are,” Plummer said. “We have a deep team, we can just roll out all four lines consistently and nobody can really compete with us.”
Townsend and the Lions refused to let up in the second, as he tallied his second goal of the contest off of Newman and Caleb Ernst assists. With over half the period still remaining, it was Plummer again who beat new Illinois goaltender Donavan Bird for Lindenwood’s fourth on the evening.
In cruise control heading into the third, Lindenwood again scored two to put the game away. First it was Kalau, getting his third of the weekend. Wrapping it up was Lombardi, giving the Lions a 6-0 lead which would be preserved through the final whistle.
Standing on his head once again for the Lions was Cooper Seedott on goal. Seedott saved 24 of Illinois’ 26 shots on Friday night, and followed up that effort with an even better one on Saturday where he earned a shutout after making 34 saves for Lindenwood.
“He’s just unbelievable,” Plummer said. “He’s the best goaltender I’ve ever seen. He moves the puck well, and he’s just unbelievable.”
In their biggest challenge of the season to date, Lindenwood simply outclassed Illinois as they’ve done against each team they’ve played this season.
The Lions, who are now a perfect 10-0 on the season, will travel out to Oklahoma next weekend to take on the Sooners, a team they swept last weekend at home.