By Jared Bravard, @JaredBravard
Ray Zimmerman’s hat trick helped the No. 5 Cyclones (12-7-1) complete the sweep of the McKendree University Bearcats (3-5) with a 6-3 win on Saturday night.
Head Coach Jason Fairman said the Cyclones had their moments, but overall, he was not very pleased with the way the team played throughout the game.
“We were sloppy. I’m disappointed,” Fairman said. “I don’t feel very satisfied, and I should after a weekend sweep.”
Zimmerman and Ryan Nelson agreed with Fairman about how the Cyclones played.
“I thought we could’ve played a little bit better, but we got the job done at the end of the day,” Zimmerman said.
The Cyclones opened the scoring with a goal at 4:08. Jacob Schuldt sent a cross-ice pass to Nelson in the neutral zone. Nelson crossed the blue line, worked his way through the slot and fired a backhander from just outside the crease that beat the blocker of McKendree goalie Brady Weiss.
Later in the period, the Cyclones found themselves on the penalty kill where they increased their lead. As Conner Hunt cleared the puck, Zimmerman and Shayne Pluto got to it simultaneously at the opposite blue line. Pluto attempted to send the puck back down the ice, but Zimmerman deflected it and tracked it down in the slot. Zimmerman’s wrister from the low slot beat Weiss’ blocker for the top-shelf, short-handed goal at 11:33.
The two-goal lead did not last long as the Bearcats scored just seconds after their power play expired. Daniel Nordlander’s centering pass found Ryan Reader in the low slot. Reader’s wrister beat Cyclone goalie Greg Moon five-hole at 12:57.
Iowa State tallied one more goal before the first period came to an end. Stuart Pearson’s pass found Matty Moran just outside the crease. Weiss saved Moran’s shot, but Austin Keil tapped the puck into the net for the rebound goal at 17:25.
The Cyclones killed their lone penalty in the first and headed into the first intermission with a 3-1 lead and a 17-5 shot advantage.
“Our first period was our best period,” Nelson said.
Much like the first period, the Cyclones again scored an early-period goal in the second. Chris Ciolek circled behind the net and fired a shot from the faceoff circle. Weiss made the save, but Eli Kopish scored on the rebound at 3:38 to increase the lead to 4-1.
McKendree cut the Cyclone lead down to two with a goal at 10:00. Nordlander had the puck behind the Cyclone net and found Lucas Brown in the slot. Brown’s wrister beat Moon’s glove.
“They got a couple good chances in the slot,” Nelson said. “We were pretty lackadaisical in the defensive zone. We were able to capitalize on a couple of chances and bounce back after that.”
The Cyclones responded with a goal of their own just 42 seconds later. Zimmerman tallied his second goal on the team’s first power play of the night to restore the three-goal lead. C.J. Banser’s pass found Zimmerman in the slot. Zimmerman’s wrister beat Weiss’ glove for the top-shelf goal at 10:42.
“We kept on scoring,” Zimmerman said. “We answered every time they did.”
Zimmerman’s goal to make the score 5-2 prompted a goalie change as Weiss made way for Kayne Pasquet. Weiss stopped 20 of 25 shots for a percentage of 0.800.
Jacob Schuldt appeared to tally a goal at 14:17 to make the score 6-2 but it was disallowed. The score sat at 5-2 heading into the second intermission.
Much like the first two periods, the Cyclones registered a lot of zone time during the third. McKendree once again cut the lead down to two with a goal at 12:23. Noah Scrum intercepted a pass in the neutral zone. He skated through the slot past two Cyclones and fired a wrister from the bottom edge of the faceoff circle. The puck made its way past Moon’s blocker to make the score 5-3.
A few minutes later, Zimmerman completed his hat trick with another power-play goal. Pearson had the puck behind the net and found Zimmerman in the faceoff circle. Pasquet saved Zimmerman’s first shot, but before the puck fell back down to the ice, Zimmerman hit the puck in midair past Pasquet’s glove at 15:01.
“The guys should be thanking Ray Zimmerman for his effort tonight,” Fairman said.
This marks the first hat trick for Zimmerman as a Cyclone. He had a couple of hat tricks during his high school career and said it felt great to get another.
“It helped the team out a lot,” Zimmerman said. “We ended up winning by three goals so we needed it. My teammates got me the puck, and it turned out that today was the day.”
The Cyclones picked up three penalties in the third but killed them all to finish five for five on the night.
Zimmerman said the penalties led to the Cyclones not scoring as many goals as Friday’s game.
“We got stuck in some penalty trouble throughout the game that really hurt our momentum,” Zimmerman said.
The Cyclones finished two for two on the power play with Zimmerman tallying both goals.
Pasquet, who entered the game 10:42 into the second period, stopped 23 of 24 shots for a percentage of 0.958, and Moon recorded a percentage of 0.875 as he made 21 saves.
Iowa State is back in action March 20-21 for a series against the Midland Warriors. Friday’s game will be in Fremont, Nebraska. Saturday’s game will take place in Ames, Iowa.
“We had to win. We have to win next weekend too,” Fairman said. “This is the time of year where you need to button down your play. That’s why this is so disappointing.”