By Jared Bravard, @JaredBravard
The No. 6 Division II Cyclones (7-4) handed the No. 1 Division II University of Mary Marauders (26-2-4) their first loss to a Division II team on Friday night. The Marauders’ only loss before Friday was to Division I Jamestown, who they beat once as well.
The Cyclones took the lead in the first and never trailed on their way to the 4-1 win.
Head Coach Jason Fairman was pleased with how the team played and saw them handle playing with the lead well.
“I thought our guys played great,” Fairman said. “We had some moments midway through the game where they pinned us down and we weathered the storm.”
Three crucial moments helped the Cyclones win, according to Fairman. The first occurred in the opening period.
Marco Escobar opened the scoring at 7:27 in the first. Moments before, Blake Ramsey circled behind the net and attempted a wraparound but lost control of the puck. It trickled its way through traffic to Escobar who was in the slot. Escobar’s wrister beat the blocker of Marauder goalie Conan Hayton to give the Cyclones the lead.
The Cyclones doubled the lead before the period ended. As the Marauders tried to clear the zone, Canyon Brown stopped the puck halfway up the near boards. Brown found Ryan Hempel, who was at the bottom edge of the faceoff circle. Hempel’s shot snuck past Hayton on the near post at 17:10.
With just over one minute remaining in the period, Escobar thought he had scored his second goal of the night, but it was disallowed. The score remained 2-0 heading into the first intermission with Fairman saying the first two goals played a role in the game’s outcome.
“I think it was critical that we got those two goals — certainly the first goal,” Fairman said. “We started believing. I think if they had scored first it might’ve been a very different game. The fact that we got the first and then the second, it gave the guys confidence.”
Early in the second period, the Cyclones increased the lead once again. Peter Meyer circled behind the net. The puck found its way to Brown, who was at the bottom of the far faceoff circle. Despite the sharp angle, Brown’s wrister found its way over Hayton’s shoulder and under the crossbar at 1:36.
The goal prompted an immediate goalie change as Kyle Hayden entered the game before the ensuing faceoff.
About three minutes later, the Marauders cut the lead down to two. Johnny Witzke had the puck in his own zone. As the teams made changes, Witzke found Jaren Hugelen open at the far blue line. Hugelen carried the puck deep into the zone and fired a shot past Cyclone goalie Devin Naidow’s glove. The puck hit the inside of the near post on its way into the back of the net for the breakaway goal at 4:39.
The next several minutes proved key for the Cyclones as they were the second of the three critical moments, according to Fairman.
“We were able to maintain a two-goal lead,” Fairman said. “I think there were a couple shifts where they were all over us and for the most part we weathered that.”
The Cyclones held onto the 3-1 lead as the second period came to a close. The third moment of the game that proved crucial, according to Fairman, occurred early in the third period.
James Frantz went to the box just 47 seconds into the period. Fairman knew if the Cyclones killed the penalty, it would be huge for the game’s final result.
“That was a critical moment in the game,” Fairman said. “[…] I think that was the turning point in the game.”
The Cyclones killed the penalty as they finished the game one for one on the kill.
A few minutes later the Cyclones had a power play of their own but did not convert as the Marauders killed their only penalty of the night.
The goal to secure the Cyclone victory came at 17:47 in the third period. Escobar raced into the Marauder zone as the Cyclones were on the odd-man rush. After carrying it deep into the zone, Escobar’s centering pass found Bryan Watters on the backside. Watters flipped the one-timer past Hayden’s blocker for the final goal of the night.
The Marauders went with the empty net for 46 seconds to end the game but did not tally another goal. Naidow made 38 saves for a percentage of 0.974. Hayton saved 13 shots for a percentage of 0.813 before being replaced 1:36 into the second period by Hayden, who recorded a percentage of 0.941 as he made 16 saves.
The game marked the fifth meeting between the two teams this season as the Marauders picked up wins in all four of the previous meetings.
Fairman said the University of Mary is one of the top programs in the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) Division II ranks but says the Cyclones have improved since the two teams last met.
“I think we’re a very different team,” Fairman said. “[…] We’ve been able to mold our players into the way we play, and we’ll see if it’s for real tomorrow afternoon.”
The puck drop of game two of the series is 4:45 p.m. on Saturday from the Ames/ISU Ice Arena. A limited number of tickets are available at the door. The game will also be streamed through Stretch (link: https://portal.stretchinternet.com/isuhockey/).