By Jared Bravard, @JaredBravard
With two home-and-home wins of 6-2 and 4-2, respectively, Cyclone Hockey sits at 7-1-0, picking up its third sweep of the season.
Several factors played key roles in the Cyclones’ success this past weekend.
For the second straight series, special teams played a big part in both games. The Cyclones continued their penalty kill success as they did not allow a power-play goal against for the second straight series.
After going a perfect 11 for 11 this weekend, the penalty kill sits at 31 for 32 for the season.
Head Coach Jason Fairman said after Friday’s game that he is pleased with the special teams play, but he doesn’t want to be on the penalty kill all the time.
“Fortunately, special teams have been a difference maker for us all year,” Fairman said after Saturday’s game. “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.”
In addition to the penalty kill, the Cyclones were also effective while on the power play. They scored two power-play goals in each game this past weekend. Three came from forward Ray Zimmerman while the other was scored by fellow forward Payton McSharry.
On Friday night, the Cyclones used the power-play goals to turn a 3-1 lead into a 5-1 lead before the end of the second period. On Saturday, the game was tied at one apiece in the first when Zimmerman scored a power-play goal. With the score at 3-2 in the third period, Zimmerman again struck gold on the power play to give the Cyclones the 4-2 lead that they would keep for the remainder of the game.
Defenseman Ryan Nelson is a part of both the power play and the penalty kill. He said the Cyclones played better systematically, and he recognized the role of the special teams play.
“We were able to get a couple of high quality shots on the power play,” Nelson said after Saturday’s game. “On the kill, we just kept a lot of pressure on them and kept shots to the outside.”
High goal periods
After this weekend, the Cyclones now have three straight games with at least three goals in one period.
On Friday, the Cyclones found themselves down within the first minute of play. With Assistant Captain Brooks Mitzel tying the game, the score sat at one apiece going into the first break. The Cyclones then used a four-goal second period to help grab a lead that held for the rest of the game.
“Obviously, we had a big second period, which really helped us,” Mitzel said after Friday’s game. “I think that helped propel us to the win tonight.”
During Saturday’s contest, the Cyclones grabbed the lead just over two minutes into the game with a goal from forward Everett Bestland. Midland responded with a goal about six minutes later. Iowa State took its lead back towards the end of the period with a pair of goals less than three minutes apart from Zimmerman and Nelson. With the Cyclones scoring just one more goal in the game, the three in the first period proved to be critical.
Room for improvement
A theme after Friday’s win was that the Cyclones knew they could play better. Both Fairman and Mitzel spoke about the Cyclones not playing as well as they wanted for the entirety of the game.
“We still haven’t played a full 60-minute game yet,” Mitzel said after Friday’s game. “I think we had some good moments in the game but we also had some lapses where we took a couple shifts off. We’re looking to try to play a full 60 minutes.”
Friday marked the third straight game where the opposing team scored the first goal of the game. However, the Cyclones still bounced back and won two of those — including Friday.
On Saturday, the Cyclones held a 3-1 lead after the first period instead of being tied or down. Despite a quality first period, Fairman was not pleased with the second period.
“The guys for the most part had a pretty good [first] period,” Fairman said after Saturday’s game. “I just don’t think we were very good in the second.”
Through the highs and lows of each team taking nine penalties in both games, Zimmerman saw the team respond well and thinks it gives the Cyclones confidence going forward.
“I think if we’re playing confident, we’re going to be a dangerous team,” Zimmerman said after Saturday’s game.
The Cyclones have a week off as their next series will take place on Nov. 13 and 14 against the Waldorf Warriors. Both games will take place at the Ames/ISU Ice Arena.