By Jared Bravard, @JaredBravard
Four wins stand between the Cyclones and being crowned national champions. The journey starts on Saturday when No. 8 Iowa State (13-9-2) meets the No. 9 Aquinas College Saints (8-5-1) in the first round of the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) Men’s Division I National Tournament.
This marks the first time these two teams will meet on the ice at the Division I level.
“Our philosophy here is if we’re buttoned down and playing at our best, we don’t really worry about the opponents that we play,” said Head Coach Jason Fairman.
Senior Justin Paulson said it could actually be beneficial for the Cyclones since Aquinas hasn’t seen Iowa State play, but regardless, the team is in high spirits.
“Everyone in the locker room is excited about it,” Paulson said. “We’re just ready to play.”
Aquinas started the season 2-4, playing now-No. 1 Adrian three times. The Saints split with Indiana Tech the following weekend before winning four straight games to end the regular season.
During the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference (WHCA) tournament, Aquinas beat Concordia University (Michigan) 3-2 in overtime before falling 2-1 in overtime to Indiana Tech in the championship game.
The tournament took place the same weekend — March 20-21 — as the Central States Collegiate Hockey League (CSCHL) tournament when the Cyclones lost to now-No. 3 Lindenwood and now-No. 5 Ohio.
“Obviously, the conference tournament wasn’t our best hockey, but I think we all put that behind us pretty quick,” Paulson said. “[…] We didn’t dwell on it too long. We went right back to work, and we’re just focused on Aquinas.”
Photo courtesy of ACHA
A little bit of rust is present after not playing a game since then, according to Fairman, but he said the team will be ready to go.
“I think the rest will trump the rustiness,” Fairman said.
The Saints average 3.93 goals and 3.14 goals against per game this season. The Cyclones’ averages sit at 4.08 goals per game and 2.92 against.
The puck drop is 8:00 p.m. on Saturday from the Maryville University Hockey Center in Chesterfield, Missouri.
All ACHA national tournament games will be broadcasted by HockeyTV (link: https://www.hockeytv.com/home). The All-Access subscription gives access to all ACHA national tournament games for all four divisions competing in this year’s tournament. The subscription can be purchased for $29.99/month. For $5 off for the first month, use the coupon code ACHAMTHLY0421, according to the ACHA Twitter page.
“It’s playoff hockey. Guys should be excited — which I think we are,” Fairman said. “[…] They could win a national championship.”