By Jared Bravard, @JaredBravard
The Division II Cyclones are heading to the 2021 American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) Division II National Championship Game. No. 3 Iowa State (15-7-1) picked up a 6-2 win over the No. 2 Lindenwood Lions (17-6-1) in Tuesday’s semifinal matchup.
“We got off to a great start. That set the tone for a game,” said Head Coach Jason Fairman. “It was more about protecting the lead and not making any critical mistakes, and I think, for the most part, we did a pretty good job of that.”
The Cyclones wasted no time grabbing the lead. Sam Dorfman tallied a goal just 53 seconds into the first period. Ryan Rouleau’s shot from the point was deflected by Dorfman in the slot. The puck found its way past the leg of Lion goalie Michael Errico.
Iowa State doubled its lead at 6:45. Blake Ramsey had the puck on the odd-man rush. He carried it all the way to the goal line before threading a pass to Marco Escobar. The one-timer from Escobar, who was just outside the crease, beat Errico’s glove to give the Cyclones a 2-0 lead.
“The guys were just ready for the challenge and they responded appropriately,” Fairman said.
A few minutes later, the Cyclones were on the power play. Just over a minute into the advantage, the teams skated 4-on-4 as Cameron Barto went to the box. The Lions then had a power play of their own for the remaining 50 seconds of Barto’s tripping penalty. With just one second left in the advantage, Lindenwood found its first goal of the game to bring the score to 2-1.
Luke Gassett sent the puck to Bobby Bross, who was at the point. Bross took the space in front of him and fired a wrister from the top of the near faceoff circle. The puck hit the shoulder of Cyclone goalie Devin Naidow on its way into the net at 11:33.
About two minutes later, the Cyclones got a power-play goal of their own to make it 3-1. After a Lindenwood poke check, the puck sat unattended in the slot. Escobar swooped in and fired a one-timer past Errico’s blocker at 13:39.
Iowa State finished 1/2 on the power play in the first, and Lindenwood was 1/1. The Lions held a 9-7 shot advantage in the first frame.
The Cyclones kept shots mostly to the outside which helped lead to the success, according to Fairman.
“We got some good goaltending to go along with that,” Fairman said. “That’s the formula to success of winning a national championship.”
For the first part of the second period, Naidow came up with save after save to keep the score at 3-1. The lone goal in the second period came at 5:49. Canyon Brown had the puck behind the net. His pass found Peter Meyer just outside the crease. Meyer tapped it in before Errico could cover the angle to make the score 4-1.
Iowa State had one power play in the period but could not convert. The Cyclones picked up a penalty at 18:55 in the period. They skated down a man for the remainder of the second and the first 55 seconds of the third.
“It was critical that we killed that off,” Fairman said.
The shots totaled 15-14 in favor of Lindenwood in the second period.
Lindenwood cut the score to 4-2 at 11:11 in the third. Michael Schrader carried the puck into the zone. His centering pass found Gassett in the slot. After making a move around a Cyclone defenseman, Gassett beat Naidow five-hole from just outside the crease.
“When they got that second goal, there were some moments that we needed to rise to the occasion and we did,” Fairman said.
Just over three minutes later, the Cyclones picked up their third penalty of the game. They killed it to keep the game at 4-2. With two minutes remaining in the period, Lindenwood pulled Errico and went with the empty net.
During the empty net situation, Ramsey and Escobar each tallied a goal and an assist to make the score 6-2. Escobar’s goal completed his hat trick.
Lindenwood finished the game with 39 shots compared to Iowa State’s 33. Naidow stopped 37 shots for a percentage of 0.949. Errico’s percentage ended at 0.871 as he made 27 saves. Both teams finished 1/3 on the power play.
The Cyclones play in the Division II National Championship against the No. 1 University of Mary Marauders. The puck drop is at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday.
“The guys are excited, and I think it should be a lot of fun,” Fairman said. “It’ll be a great game. Mary is a good hockey team and I think it’s a good showcase for the ACHA Division II.”