Congratulations go out to the University of Illinois club hockey team on a perfect season.
The Illini finished 38-0 and captured the ACHA national championship Wednesday night with a 4-2 victory over Lindenwood University in Rochester, N.Y.
As far as I can tell (and the record-keeping on this stuff isn't the greatest), the season Illinois put together was a first in ACHA Division I play. Penn State came closest to perfection, going 33-1 in 1993. But no team at that level has ever won 38 games and gone undefeated.
In NCAA D-I hockey, the 1970 Cornell squad is the only team to ever go undefeated.
Illinois has had a solid club hockey program for several years. The Illini are annually competitive at the national level, and this is their second ACHA title. The first came in 2005. The Illini also had a 37-win season in 2004.
But this year's team is best the school has had. I caught two of their games when I was in Champaign for homecoming last October. The Illini were impressive in back-to-back wins over Lindenwood that weekend. Little did I know I was watching the two teams that would compete for the national title nearly five months later.
Most of the players on the Illini roster are from the Chicago area, including one from The Beacon News coverage area. Sophomore defenseman Brad Hoelzer, of Batavia, received first team all-tournament honors in Rochester.
Kudos to head coach Chad Cassel, Hoelzer and the rest of the Illini for a feat that is nearly unprecedented at any level of college hockey.