By Jared Bravard, @JaredBravard
As the second semester is nearing, here is a look at how the first semester of play went for the Division I Cyclones.
After playing Jamestown, Waldorf, Indiana Tech and Midland for a total of eight games, the team enters the break with a 7-1 record.
Taking care of business
Last season, the Cyclones lost two games and tied one in the first three series which ended up haunting them in the year-end rankings.
“We dropped a couple in the first month and never really recovered from it all year,” said Captain Max Olson before the Waldorf series on Oct. 16-17.
This year, that did not happen as the Cyclones took care of business in the first semester. Head Coach Jason Fairman had similar words before the Waldorf series in October.
“If we come ready to play, I think we’ll be successful. If we take them lightly, that might lead to trouble,” Fairman said. “[…] I want to make certain that we’re not looking past this weekend.”
The Cyclones were ready to play as they picked up a pair of 8-0 and 8-2 wins at Waldorf. The sole loss in the first eight games came at Indiana Tech, a team that was ranked as high as third nationally last year and No. 10 for the national tournament.
After that 3-2 loss on Friday, the Cyclones bounced back with a 5-2 win on Saturday. This was most likely an important result of the first semester, according to Fairman.
“There just hasn’t been enough games and enough teams playing right now to realize the significance of this win, but I think long-term, we’re going to look back at this and say this was a big win for us,” Fairman said after the game.
Many of the members of last year’s team returned this year, but several new faces also arrived and have had an impact in the young season.
The freshmen made their presence felt right from the start during the 3-2 win on opening night against Jamestown. Forward Austin Keil scored the Cyclones’ first goal of the season in his debut. Everett Bestland also added a debut goal that night which ended up being the game-winner.
“I think we saw a lot of positive things from the new guys,” Fairman said after the game.
Defenseman Ryan Nelson, forward Conner Hunt, defenseman Billy Bronson join Keil and Bestland as the five freshmen to appear in all eight games so far this season. Three other freshmen have appeared in six or more games. Bestland’s five goals are second best on the team.
Freshman goalie Greg Moon also contributed to the early season success. Moon appeared in seven games and has a 6-1 record. His save percentage is 0.929 with a goals against average of 1.86. Moon has made 166 saves already this season and has earned one shutout.
Both aspects of special teams played a role in the Cyclones’ success so far this season. The team found itself with the man advantage 34 times this season, scoring 11 goals. Iowa State has scored power-play goals in five of the eight games and three of the four series.
In the 8-0 win at Waldorf on Oct. 16, Iowa State scored three power-play goals. Forward Payton McSharry liked the way the power play looked during the game.
“Our power play did really well tonight. We were moving the puck. It was beautiful honestly,” Mcsharry said after the game.
The penalty kill also contributed to the success of special teams. The Cyclones have only allowed one goal when on the penalty kill so far this season despite being short handed 32 times. The lone goal came in the second game of the season, meaning that Iowa State has not given up a power-play goal in the last six games.
“I think our units are developing a little chemistry,” Fairman said after the Indiana Tech game on Oct. 24. “They’re getting some looks on the power play. We may not be converting as much as we’d like, but I think it’s encouraging that we’re starting to get in rhythm with our power play units.”
With the penalty kill at almost 97% and the power play at just over 32%, Fairman knows it will be hard to keep those numbers up throughout the entire season, but he sees the impact of special teams so far this year.
“Fortunately, special teams have been a difference maker for us all year. We’ve been pretty good,” Fairman said after the Cyclones’ most recent game on Oct. 31. “It’s going to be tough to keep up this from a percentage standpoint. Soon the percentages are going to catch up with you, but I’m very pleased with both sides of special teams.”
Also contributing to the success so far is playing with a level of fun. McSharry talked about this after the 8-0 win over Waldorf on Oct. 16.
“If we can come out and just kind of crush a team in the first five minutes, that really demoralizes them for the rest of the period because they’re not really looking forward to being on the ice with us when we’re having a good time.”