After losing five of its last six games, the No. 11 Cyclone Hockey team would like to completely turn things around with a victorious weekend series against No. 10 Illinois.

Iowa State (7-4-1) has been struggling lately to perform effectively on offense and shut opposing teams down on defense. Among other things, coach Al Murdoch attributes this to his team’s lack of mental toughness.

The Cyclones are now facing a critical point in their season.

“We have to earn every game the rest of the season,” Murdoch said. “Nobody is going to give us a game.”

For anyone unaware of the Cyclones’ recent slump, a visit to hockey practice would make it clear that the team hasn’t been living up to its expectations. Murdoch said he has been raising his voice more often than usual, trying to light a fire under his team.

“It’s not where I want us to be,” Murdoch said of the team’s 7-4-1 record. “About 95 percent of the team is performing lower than expected.”

Following a productive two-goal, one-assist weekend, sophomore forward James Buttermore attributed Iowa State’s recent slump to a “lack of focus” and “mental fatigue.”

Buttermore feels the team needs to focus on not taking periods off, especially playing a speed-oriented team such as Illinois, which can capitalize quickly on other teams’ breakdowns. Buttermore also noted that the Cyclones need to be physical to shut Illinois down.

Both Buttermore and senior defenseman Brandon Clark stressed that Iowa State has to learn from its mistakes. With good teams in the league, the Cyclones cannot continue to make the same little mistakes.

“The mentality has to change,” Clark said of the Cyclone’s lack of focus. “We have to be more accountable.”

Clark noted that it is definitely a growing process for some of the guys on the team, but added mental toughness and focus are not something one can teach — it has to be a choice that all the players make.

The Cyclones and Fighting Illini square off at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Ames/ISU Ice Arena.

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