When the Cyclone Hockey team skated off the ice after losing to Oklahoma in the American Collegiate Hockey League Association Tournament quarterfinals, the 2013-14 season came to a close.
This season, which began nearly six months ago against Waldorf and concluded with the 3-1 loss to No. 2 Oklahoma, had its share of ups and downs. It also saw a few changes within the program, as longstanding coach Al Murdoch retired and was replaced with ISU coach Jason Fairman, which brought about a different approach to the game on the ice.
But for many members of Cyclone Hockey, it was not about who the coach was or whom they were playing; it was the hard work they put in that defined the season.
“We battled from day one,” said ISU goalie Matt Cooper. “People from the outside might not understand, but guys in the locker room really battled for everything we got this year. We worked hard for every win we got. I am really proud of the whole team.”
No. 10 Iowa State had its best overall record in 15 years, going 36-10-4. The Cyclones won their first nine games — which was the longest consecutive winning streak they had all season — before losing to at the time No. 11 Central Oklahoma.
From there, the Cyclones entered conference play in the Central States Collegiate Hockey League. Iowa State managed to beat every team in the CSCHL at least once and finished 14-5-1 in the conference.
Fairman was voted in as head coach by the players after Al Murdoch retried following the series with then No. 2 Minot State on Nov. 16. Murdoch, who had coached the Cyclones for the past 43 years, said he was leaving to spend more time with his family.
The type of play that Fairman introduced focused on a high-percentage style of hockey.
“There were a lot of changes for the better in my opinion during that changeover,” said ISU forward Mark Huber. “It was just a start of a new era. There’s a new coach and a new team. New recruits can start fresh next year and complete the changeover of the legacy of Al Murdoch to the new one with Jason Fairman.”
Fairman did not have much time to settle into his new role. The team left for a six-game road trip to face the No. 1 Arizona State, Arizona and West Virginia the weekend after he was named head coach.
Once returning home, the Cyclones played then-No. 14 Lindenwood on Dec. 6. The 3-1 over the Lions at the Ames/ISU Ice Arena was the start of Iowa State’s 12-game winning streak at home — the longest in more than four years.
This streak came to an end by the hands of the same team that gave the Iowa State its first loss on the season, Central Oklahoma. The Bronchos beat the Cyclones 6-3 in the final regular season game.
On Jan. 18, an overtime goal by Huber gave Iowa State its first win against the No. 7 conference rival Bobcats in Ohio since 2007.
However, the Bobcats knocked the Cyclones out of the CSCHL Tournament in the following month. This was the third time that Ohio eliminated Iowa State from the postseason
The Cyclones got their revenge in the first round of the ACHA tournament, though, beating the Bobcats 3-1.
“It was a lot of work ethic and determination,” Cooper said when asked about what it took to beat Ohio. “The whole squad knew we had to go in and get it done.”
Several players dealt with injuries throughout the year. ISU forward Chase Rey suffered an upper body injury in the first series with Ohio, causing him to miss 15 games. He still finished fourth on the team in total points with 25.
ISU forwards Jon Feavel and Chris Cucullu, ISU defenseman Matt Bennett and Huber will not return to the team next season due to graduation. These four players have been some of the Cyclones main offensive players over the past four years.
For Fairman, these seniors will not be measured only by what they did on the ice during their time on the team.
“We have four important seniors graduating,” Fairman said. “We are going to have to find guys to step up and fill their shoes. On the positive side, those seniors did a great job setting the course of this program for the future. They are the standard-bearers for Iowa State Hockey going forward.”
While riding the bus back from Delaware after losing in the ACHA tournament and failing to bring a championship banner to Ames, Huber summed up the season with just three words.
“It was fun.”