Photo courtesy of Don Egdorf
By Jared Bravard, @JaredBravard
With 19 freshmen on the team, the Division II Cyclones appeared in their first American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) Division II National Tournament, making it all the way to the championship game.
“I was very pleased with the Division II season,” Head Coach Jason Fairman said. “I enjoyed coaching that team. This is probably the most involved I’ve been with Division II since I’ve been here.”
The Cyclones are no strangers to success. In its final year as a Division III team in 2016-17, the team went to the Division III National Tournament. In the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons, and the Division II Cyclones competed in the Mid-American Collegiate Hockey Association (MACHA) Championship Game. In 2019-20, the Division II Cyclones made it to the semifinals MACHA tournament.
With a different team makeup this season, the new faces of Division II Cyclones continued the success of past seasons.
“In a short period of time, the Division II team has become a national contender and I think that’s something to be very proud of,” Fairman said.
In the fall, the Cyclones played a total of seven games against two teams — eventual tournament seeds No. 1 University of Mary and No. 11 Jamestown. The team’s record sat at 3-4, losing the four games to Mary while beating Jamestown all three times.
“The schedule was certainly challenging with a bunch of new players,” Fairman said.
The final game of the fall semester occurred against Jamestown on Nov. 1. Iowa State was scheduled to play Concordia University-Wisconsin (CUW) on Nov. 7-8, but CUW canceled the series due to COVID-19 protocols.
Fairman said there was some concern around getting the new team all on the same page for the tough schedule amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and locker room changes. However, he said things changed when the second semester rolled around.
“There were certainly some challenges, but I think second semester, something clicked, and I give the leadership of the team some credit,” Fairman said. “[…] I think Blake Ramsey did a phenomenal job. We didn’t have many veterans but the ones we did have stepped up and had an impact on the locker room and our work ethic. That was a difference-maker.”
The Cyclones kicked off their spring semester with a series against CUW on Jan. 29-30. Iowa State picked up a sweep that weekend and three weeks later against Maryville. The No. 1 University of Mary Marauders came to town Feb. 26-27. The Cyclones picked up a 4-1 win on Friday, handing Mary its first loss to a Division II team through that point in the season, before tying Saturday’s game. After the series with the Marauders, Iowa State split with CUW, Marian and Lindenwood to finish the regular season with a record of 11-7-1.
After playing Lindenwood on March 20-21, the Cyclones did not play another game until April 16 — their first game of the national tournament. The time without a game and with minimal skating had Fairman slightly concerned.
“I was worried about us being a little rusty at nationals, but we played through that and quickly adjusted and finished strong,” Fairman said.
The record and resume of the Cyclones led them to secure the No. 3 seed in their first-ever ACHA Division II National Tournament appearance. After going 3-0 in pool play against No. 6 Marian, No. 11 Jamestown and No. 14 Williston State College, Iowa State faced No. 2 Lindenwood in the semifinals. The Cyclones won 6-2 to advance to the Championship game. After going toe-to-toe with No. 1 Mary, the Cyclones fell in the final game by a score of 2-0.
“It was a great run. It was fun to be a part of and I think it’s something all the guys will remember and I think they’re hungry for next season,” Fairman said.
Three Cyclones earned accolades based on their performance at the national tournament. Goalie Devin Naidow and defenseman Dan Duncan were both recognized on the all-tournament second team while forward Marco Escobar earned a spot on the all-tournament first team.
Throughout their 24 games this past season, the Cyclones had 85 goals for (3.54 per game) and 52 goals against (2.17 per game).
With only one graduating senior on the Division II team, Fairman is optimistic about the future of the Division II program. Offseason changes can occur, but he expects nothing less after this year’s team of 19 freshmen, four sophomores and one senior made it to the championship game.
“The bar has been set for our Division II program,” Fairman said. “We expect to be a national contender next year.”