After the end of a regular season that saw the retirement of longstanding coach Al Murdoch, the addition of six games and its share of ups and downs, it is finally time for playoff hockey.
The No. 9 Cyclone Hockey team (32-9-3, 14-5-1) will compete in the Central State Collegiate Hockey League Tournament this weekend, Feb. 21-23, at Lindenwood.
Iowa State will play Indiana in the first round of the tournament. If the team moves on, it will play Ohio in the second and could face Lindenwood, Robert Morris or Illinois in the championship game.
The Cyclones have beaten each of these teams at least once in the regular season. But if they are going to make a run in the conference tournament, they will have to play consistent hockey.
“It is the same thing I have been saying for the last few weeks,” said ISU coach Jason Fairman. “We need to play our game, play within our systems, keeping the game simple and playing high percentage hockey. It is all of these things. If we do that for 60 minutes, we can win the championship.”
This inconsistency on the ice has been the main challenge Fairman has dealt with as head coach of the program. He said he was confused on how the Cyclones could have such a wide shift in performance from one night to the next—or even from one period to the next.
To avoid this problem, when the puck drops against Indiana, ISU goalie Scott Ismond hopes the Cyclones are focusing at the task at hand come game time.
“If you look back at our games that have been sub-par, there were some questionable moments in the dressing room,” Ismond said. “We have been a little too relaxed. We might be joking around too much and underestimating our opponent. However you want to put it, there’s been example of everything.”
Since the CSCHL is one of the stronger conferences in the American Collegiate Hockey Association — it has five prospective teams competing in the national tournament — this weekend gives the Cyclones a chance to prepare for the next level of play off hockey.
Ohio will also be Iowa State’s first opponent in the ACHA Tournament. Ismond said this early look at the Bobcats will give the Cyclones a chance to adjust for nationals.
“If we can win that game against that team say like a Robert Morris or Ohio in the CSCHL Tournament, then there is no doubt in anyone’s mind we can do it again at the national tournament,” Ismond said.
If the Cyclones are going to hang another CSCHL championship banner in the Ames/ISU Ice Arena, ISU forward Mark Huber said it will have to be a team effort.
“It is a mindset about being ready for each shift and each game,” Huber said, “We just need to have guys give a 100 percent effort on every shift and not make that small mistake that could cost us the game.”