Cyclone Hockey picked up its third consecutive win Friday night defeating the Robert Morris University Illinois Eagles 3-2. The Cyclones are now 11-9-1, and the Eagles move to 9-8-2.
Just over halfway through the second period, the Cyclones held a 2-0 lead. An Eagle goal near the end of the second and early in the third tied the game at two goals apiece.
“The game never should’ve been that close,” said coach Jason Fairman. “I think we thought our work was done because we were dominating territorially, and then we allowed them to get back into the game.”
The Cyclones took the lead at 2:33 in the first. A buildup of play by Payton McSharry and Justin Paulson ricocheted off of Eagle goalie Darryll Smith. Cyclone forward Ray Zimmerman was in the right place at the right time to tap the puck into the net.
“That’s how we play, shoot low, hope for a rebound, you bury it,” Fairman said. “That was drive the net, those are things that coaches usually tell their players. That’s how goals are scored.”
Zimmerman struck again and doubled the Cyclone lead at 11:40 in the second period. Similar to the first goal, Stuart Pearson saw his chance deflect off of Smith. Zimmerman was ready once again as he collected the puck and went top shelf over Smith's shoulder.
Robert Morris cut the lead in half at 17:48 in the second. Eagle forward Mike Cacciato took the pass from Scott Coash, circled behind the net and slotted the puck home. Cacciato had a clear view of the net as he was unguarded.
Early in the third period, the Cyclones gave up the puck deep in their own zone. Cacciato returned the favor and found Coash, who tied the game at 4:28 in the third.
“It was just individual breakdowns that led to the goals,” Fairman said. “Our guys know that every play counts. You can’t take a play off, you can’t take a shift off and certainly can’t take a period and game off.”
Coash and Cacciato are the Eagles’ two most prolific players, as they lead the team in points this season. They each recorded one goal and one assist tonight. Coash now has 36 points and Ciacciato has 33. Dominick Manochio is third on the team with 17.
“They were just little breakdowns we had, and that’s part of the game,” said Cyclone forward Dylan Goggin. “They capitalized on the mistakes; they’re a good team. The more we can limit those little mistakes — which they’re all fixable things, which is nice — the more success we’ll have moving forward.”
Goggin scored the third Cyclone goal at 12:15 in the third. As Robert Morris played the puck out of the back of their own zone, the Cyclones pressed. Goggin intercepted a cross-ice pass in the center of the zone, found himself unguarded, squared up to the net and fired a shot past Smith.
“We got a lot of pressure down low, forced a turnover out of the slot,” Goggin said. “I was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time. We just wanted to keep testing the goalie and putting the puck on net and finally got rewarded for it.”
Close games are a theme of the Cyclones' season. Six of the 21 games have been decided by one goal and nine by two goals.
“This is how all of our games have been,” Fairman said. “I don’t think it was anything they haven’t experienced, but I would like to play a complete 60-minute game where we’re dominate like we were for a lot of [tonight’s] game.”
The Cyclones face the Eagles again Saturday at the Ames/ISU Arena. Puck drop is at 7:30 p.m.