Over the course of its history, Iowa State has remained a big name when it comes to hockey in the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) — an alternative governing body for collegiate hockey to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Cyclone Hockey has one ACHA Division I Championship, which it won in the 1991-92 season. The Cyclones have been the runner-up multiple times — most recently in the 2015-16 season.
Cyclone Hockey plays in the Central States Collegiate Hockey League (CSCHL), one division apart of the ACHA. The league has seen success, with a combined 10 ACHA Men’s Division I championships and 14 runner-ups since being founded in 1970.
Outside of tough conference play every year, Cyclone Hockey’s schedule finds itself playing even more top 25 teams, giving it one of the toughest strength of schedules in the ACHA.
Cyclone Hockey has been able to keep its name in the discussion of top teams and the 2018-19 season is no different, where the Cyclones have cracked the top 5.
The 2018-19 roster has no shortage by far when it comes to senior experience and leadership. The Cyclones have seven seniors on the team, all of which were on the 2015-16 roster that saw the Cyclones falling short of a national championship.
“Any team is going to need good senior leadership to be successful,” said coach and general manager Jason Fairman.
Tony Uglem, Trevor Sabo, Adam Alcott and Aaron Azevedo make up the senior forwards. Nick Sandy and Kurt Halbach are the senior defensemen and Matt Goedeke is the senior at goaltender.
Coming to into a hockey program that has remained a big name in the ACHA and playing in a tough league like the CSCHL, there is a noticeable jump from playing in things like junior hockey to collegiate hockey.
“Junior's a little bit of a different animal in that you don’t have school on the go," Sandy said. "You wake up everyday and your only responsibility is toward the team, you have no other distractions going on. So it’s a little bit more focused like that in a routine. The style of play is definitely more physical.”
In 2015-16, the seven of them posted a total of 132 points throughout the season. Uglem led the then-freshmen with 24 goals and 22 assists for a total of 46 points. Azevedo was right behind him with 10 goals and 30 assists for a total of 40 points. Uglem and Azevedo were in the top 3 on the team for points that season as freshmen.
Uglem led the Cyclones in points for the following two seasons, with Azevedo right behind him both seasons. Sabo and Alcott also proved to be reliable on the offensive end and have progressively gotten better and better each year.
Goedeke found playing time in every season that he’s been at Iowa State. In the 2015-16 season, he had a save percentage of .917 in 25 games with a record of 14-4. The following year his save percentage was .901 in 13 games with a record of 5-6. Last year his save percentage was .912 in 17 games with a record of 7-5.
They adapted well in their freshmen year, even when they had to play other top teams in the nation.
“Playing tough teams that brings out either the best or worst in players,” Uglem said. “As an upperclassman, you try to bring out the best in everyone because against those tough teams every shift is a battle.”
Being able to go out on the ice and play their role on the team is only part of their job. Being the upperclassmen on the team, every senior knows that they have a responsibility to provide leadership for the others on the team.
Hockey assigns captain and alternate captain patches to leaders on the team that can be seen on their jerseys. The captains jersey is marked with a “C” on the front and the alternate captains have an “A” marked on their jerseys. Sandy wears the captain patch while Uglem, Sabo and Alcott all have an alternate captains patch.
Uglem mentions that it’s not the patch on the jersey that defines who the leaders are and that every senior on the team knows that being a leader is apart of their responsibility.
While there’s a dependence on the veterans of the team to play well, the freshmen on the team also have to produce.
“They need to lead by example,” Fairman said, “That includes off the ice as well. Being very welcoming to the new players, bringing them into the family so to speak, that’s usually part of the formula for any successful team.”
Several Cyclone freshmen have seen significant time on the ice in the first half of the 2018-19 season. The freshmen forwards include Nick Rogers, C.J. Banser and Robbie McLean. Freshmen defensemen include Joey Marcuccilli and Jake Joyaux. There are also plenty of other freshmen on the team who haven’t seen much time on the ice so far.
Much like when the seniors first came to Cyclone Hockey, the current freshmen have seen a similar jump to collegiate hockey, especially playing in the CSCHL.
“It’s been a lot more intense, a lot more fast paced and physical,” Marcuccilli said, “It’s been a little bit difficult of an adjustment, but I think help from a lot of the guys in the locker room it’s been a lot easier.”
Marcuccilli and Banser credit the seniors for being a help on the ice with motivating the team and helping bring them closer together, as well as big help off the ice with the life transition to college. Banser cites Azevedo and Halbach as two of the seniors who have always been there for him.
The Cyclones are currently closing out on a successful first half of the 2018-19 season that’s seen them win 12 games and drop four games with a league record of 2-4. Everyone on Cyclone Hockey is focused on coming back for a strong performance over the second half of its season.
“This program itself is super, super storied, and we’re proud to even look up at the banners that we’ve been able to put up — the CSCHL title,” Sandy said, “But we want the big one and for 50 years of a program to only have one national championship, we would love for that legacy, not only ourselves, to add a second one to that.”