For Cyclone forward Blake Ramsey, the journey for his first D1 goal was a long one.
Ramsey spent the past two seasons on Cyclone Hockey’s D2 team. He was called up to the D1 team for the 2019-20 season, but even then, the goal did not come right away.
“He’s a hard worker on the ice, off the ice — very coachable,” said coach Jason Fairman. “He’s earned being a regular in the lineup. He got some power play time [against Robert Morris and Illinois]. I see his game getting better every week as he gets more experience. I’m very proud of how far he’s come along since he was a freshman.”
Ramsey grew up in Des Moines and was very active — playing football, baseball, golf and hockey. During Ramsey’s freshman year of high school, he stopped playing football but continued the other three. Ramsey then cut down to focus hockey — his favorite sport. The camaraderie is what Ramsey likes most about the game.
Ramsey played four years for the Des Moines Capitals during high school, from the 2012-13 season to the 2015-16 season. He then took a year off to work a job and to play for the U18 Iowa Wild during the 2016-17 season.
“[Playing for the] Iowa Wild was a great experience,” Ramsey said. “I think I developed a lot that year.”
Iowa State University and Cyclone Hockey were on Ramsey's mind for his future plans. He grew up relatively close to the campus and had several family friends attend the university — some of which played hockey. These two factors played a role in his decision.
Not only did Ramsey have past connections to Cyclone Hockey, he also had a current one — starting goalie Nikita Kozak.
“I knew Nikita,” Ramsey said. “He was from Des Moines too, so I kind of talked to him about it.”
Kozak and Ramsey knew each other growing up. According to Kozak, they started playing hockey together at age 10 and played through senior year of high school. After a three-year hiatus, with Ramsey playing for the Iowa Wild and the D2 team, Kozak is excited to be back on the ice with him.
“Now, we’re bringing back the legacy together,” Kozak said. “He’s a joy to have in the locker room. [He’s] a guy that makes coming to the rink every day a lot of fun.”
Along with speaking to Kozak, Ramsey contacted Fairman and toured the hockey facilities. Ramsey also did a campus visit before deciding to attend Iowa State and play for Cyclone Hockey.
During the 2017-18 season, Ramsey scored seven goals, had 13 assists and spent six minutes in the penalty box over the course of 25 games. Two of his seven goals were game winners. Ramsey’s 20 points were good enough for fifth on the D2 team.
Ramsey was one of eight players for the Cyclones that season who played in at least 20 games and recorded less than 10 penalty minutes.
In the 2018-19 season, Ramsey played in all 24 games, tallying 12 goals, recording 16 assists and spending 12 minutes in the penalty box. He registered one game-winning goal.
Ramsey’s 28 points put him at third on the team — four from tying second and nine from tying first.
“[Playing on the D2 team] was a good experience, just kind of two years to develop and be able to play at this level that I’m playing at now,” Ramsey said.
Ramsey’s work on the D2 team was not only recognized by those within Cyclone Hockey. He was selected to participate in the 2019 American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) All-Star Challenge. Players are nominated by their coaches and then selected by a committee.
This event is a post season tournament that occurs every two years for the D2 level. Each conference sends a team to compete. The 2019 edition of the tournament took place in Philadelphia from Apr. 12-14.
“[The tournament] was a great experience. Me and a couple other guys on D2 went from Iowa State,” Ramsey said. “[We] got to meet a lot of people from our division, which was nice. Playing against them is a little different than playing with them, so I made some friendships out there too.”
Ramsey was one of five Cyclones on the 25-man roster for the Mid-American Collegiate Hockey Association (MACHA) team, the regional conference. The MACHA team had success and ended up winning the tournament.
After the tournament and the summer, Ramsey was ready for fall camp.
“I feel that you need to make sure a kid’s ready when you’re going to call him up,” said assistant coach Brian Gibbons. “He’s put in the work for the past few years. When he came to training camp this fall, he was ready to go.”
Ramsey has appeared in 21 of the 22 games this season for the Cyclones. His first 18 games resulted in two assists but no goals. That changed in his 19th game on Nov. 23.
The Cyclones traveled to Fort Collins, Colorado, to face the Colorado State Rams. After a 3-2 win on Friday night, Saturday’s game was another close one. The game was scoreless through two periods. At 3:35 in the third, Ramsey opened the scoring — for the game and his D1 career.
“Matty Moran, number 24, was on the wall,” Ramsey said. “One of our defensemen passed it up to him. [Moran] chipped it off the boards, and then I was flying the zone; and as a left winger, I came across on the right side, flew the zone, and it was a breakaway, and I went far post.”
The Rams tied the game at one, but the Cyclones got another goal in the third to secure a 2-1 victory.
Ramsey said he was “definitely satisfied” scoring his first D1 goal.
“I was working hard to get that first one,” Ramsey said. “It wasn’t coming, but just keep working, and it’ll come. I’m glad it eventually came.”
Fairman has noticed Ramsey’s hard work and progression in D1 play. Ramsey is getting regular playing time and power play time.
“I think that I’m starting to see a development in his game at the D1 level,” Fairman said. “He’s starting to be able to react to the timing and space that he’s given.”
Fairman said that the biggest challenge in progressing in level is becoming accustomed to the pace and knowing what to do in a shorter amount of time.
Ramsey has not only made an impact on the ice, but off the ice as well. Coaches and fellow players all echoed similar thoughts about Ramsey, both as a hockey player and a person.
“[He’s a] great kid on and off the ice. On the ice, he’s a workhorse; off the ice, he’s a character,” Gibbons said. “He’s a kid that you come to the rink every day and you see him, and he puts a smile on your face. It’s contagious, especially in the [locker] room.”
Gibbons is in his first season with Cyclone Hockey, but Ramsey has already made an impression on him. He had never seen Ramsey play before coming to the program but sees why Ramsey was called up.
“You tell him to run through a brick wall, he’s going to run through a brick wall for you,” Gibbons said. “He’s that type of kid. He does the little things right; he battles the right way. I ultimately think he’s on our team now because of his work ethic.”
Fellow forward Dylan Goggin joined Cyclone Hockey at the same time as Ramsey. The two have had classes together but had not played together until this season.
Goggin said he has gotten to know Ramsey pretty well though class and has enjoyed being with him on and off the ice.
“He’s just a great locker room guy — fun to be around, always smiling,” Goggin said. “Obviously on the ice, he’s always putting in work. He’s never one to back away from a challenge. He’s always pushing himself and pushing others to be better.”
With Kozak being a senior, this may be the final season the longtime friends and teammates play together. Kozak has enjoyed the time with Ramsey over the years.
“He’s been a great friend throughout the years,” Kozak said. “It’s really fun playing with him again.”
Being a junior, Ramsey still has a year and a half left in college and with Cyclone Hockey. He is undecided about his plans after graduation but is thinking about using his finance degree to go into commercial real estate or to become a financial advisor.