By Jared Bravard, @JaredBravard
The Division I Cyclones (9-1) took to the road this past weekend and returned with another sweep. They picked up a 6-4 win on Friday and a 5-4 win in a shootout on Saturday over the Missouri State Ice Bears (0-1-1).
On Friday night, the Cyclones never trailed on their way to the win. On Saturday, however, they needed to mount a comeback to secure the win.
Even with the difference in each game’s events, key commonalities still existed between the two wins.
The Cyclones are no strangers to quality special teams play. Entering the weekend, their penalty kill was next to perfect, and their power play sat just above 32%.
Once again, both sides of special teams helped the Cyclones get their fourth sweep of the season.
In Friday’s game, the Cyclones killed one of their two penalties. That kill came within the last four minutes of the first period. Iowa State had a 2-1 lead at that point, and the kill helped keep that lead for the remainder of the first frame.
Friday’s game also saw the Cyclones score two power-play goals on their four advantages. With the score at 3-2 in the second period, Ray Zimmerman found the back of the net to restore the Cyclones’ two-goal lead. Zimmerman added the other power-play goal in the third to make the score 6-3.
“Our power play has been fantastic,” said Head Coach Jason Fairman after Saturday’s game. “They are getting quality chances every outing. It’s fun to watch.”
At two for seven, Saturday’s power play may not seem as impactful as other games, but it was the timing of the two goals that played a key role.
After a scoreless first period, the Cyclones found themselves down 3-0 less than six minutes into the second. Needing an answer, they were on the power play about three minutes later. Stuart Pearson delivered a goal to bring the Cyclones within two. Less than two minutes later, Zimmerman brought the team one closer with another power-play goal.
Captain Max Olson was proud of the special teams play, particularly the power play, and knows that it can determine games.
“It was definitely a special teams game tonight,” Olson said after Saturday’s game.
Two of the first three goals that Missouri State scored during Saturday’s game were on a major assessed to Matty Moran. Aside from that, the Cyclones killed the other three times they were down a man.
After making an immediate impact, the freshmen have continued to contribute throughout the season. On Friday, Austin Keil scored one goal and assisted fellow freshman Conner Hunt on his first goal in the Cardinal and Gold. Ryan Nelson recorded his team-high eighth assist on the season.
Friday also marked freshman goalie Greg Moon’s seventh win.
On Saturday, freshmen Jacob Schuldt and Will Kutch tallied the assists on Andrew Lee’s goal that tied the game at three. Keil scored a goal just eight seconds later to give the Cyclones the lead. Hunt recorded one of the assists on Keil’s goal.
Several freshmen also made an impact that did not show up on the stat sheet. The attempts of rounds four through eight in the shootout were all taken by freshmen. Everett Bestland scored the goal in round eight, and Moon made a save to secure the win.
Moon entered the game in the second period on Saturday and saved all but one of the 16 shots that came his way. He was also in net for his first shootout as a Cyclone en route to his eighth win.
Whether it was playing with the lead or coming from behind, resiliency proved to be a common theme in both wins this past weekend.
In Friday’s game, the Cyclones scored first with the Ice Bears tying the game later in the first period. Less than three minutes later, Iowa State regained the lead before the end of the frame.
The second period saw the Cyclones have a two-goal lead twice with the Ice Bears responding each time to cut the lead to one.
Iowa State then scored consecutive goals in the third period to help put the game out of reach.
“We’re really resilient,” Zimmerman said after Friday’s game. “We don’t get rattled if the other team scores which is a good sign.”
After being down 3-0 on Saturday, Fairman saw the team respond to mount the comeback.
“We never quit,” Fairman said. “[…] It showed a lot of resiliency in our guys, especially with a lot of young players.”
Up to the test
This series will help the Cyclones down the road, according to a couple of the players.
Zimmerman saw the value of keeping the lead during Friday’s game.
“Going down the stretch at the end of the season, you can’t be giving up leads, so it’s a good sign that the team didn’t let it up,” Zimmerman said after Friday’s game.
Bestland said Missouri State was probably the most physically tough team the Cyclones have faced so far this season.
“We kind of know where we stand now and that was definitely a good test to start the second semester,” Bestland said after Saturday’s game.
The Cyclones’ next series is on Jan. 22-23. The Ice Bears will return the favor and make a trip to Ames, Iowa. Both games will take place in the Ames/ISU Ice Arena.