Cyclone Hockey completes two-game sweep, still need improvement


Logan Kahler/Iowa State Daily

Junior Preston Blanek stretches to regain possession of the puck against the North Iowa Bulls on Sept. 12 at the Ames/ISU Ice Arena.

Luke Manderfeld

Cyclone Hockey swept the North Iowa Bulls, the two-time defending North American Tier III Hockey League champions, in two games on Sept. 12 and 13, bringing their preseason to a close.

The Cyclones had to battle Sept. 12, coming back from a 2-0 deficit to win 3-2, but on Sept. 13 they stayed on top of the Bulls to win 3-1. Even with the two wins, head coach Jason Fairman isn’t completely pleased.

“We’ve only had three or four practices with four exhibition games, compared to [the Bulls’] seven exhibition games, and you could tell,” Fairman said. “But that isn’t an excuse. My concern is that we are so far away from the team that we need to be.”

One bright spot in the lineup over the weekend was the offensive line of Jake Bruhn, Zack Johnson and Preston Blanek, who scored four of the Cyclones’ six goals in the two game series. Johnson, a freshman forward, has shown early signs of a scoring touch, scoring four goals in the past three games. 

The first game saw Iowa State go down early due to a first period goal by North Iowa after a turnover that caused a 2-on-1 opportunity. The Bulls grabbed another goal early in the second period.

Iowa State got one back later in the period after a deflected Nate Percy shot caught by Johnson found the back of the net. Then Percy went coast-to-coast and around a defender to tie the game up.

Late in the third period, Bruhn fed Alex Stephens the winning goal with just over four minutes to play.

Percy’s performance Friday night led him to a weekend with one goal and two assists.

“Coach Fairman has been talking about driving to the net and creating rebounds, so I was diving to the net and just trying to put a puck there so maybe someone could grab a quick rebound,” Percy said.

Game two of the series started out similarly to the first, with the Bulls putting a barrage on the net with 16 shots. Senior goaltender Scott Ismond stopped all of them, keeping the game level through the first period.

In the second period, the Cyclones took their turn to pull ahead first with junior defensemen Matt Szpak taking a feed behind-the-net to make it 1-0. The Bulls came back, however, with a Kohei Sato rebound goal. That would be the only goal Ismond allowed.

Blanek, a former Bull, took the lead from his former team, burying the puck in the net after a pass from Percy. Johnson finished the game with an empty net goal with just under a minute left in regulation.

Ismond stopped 31 of 32 shots he faced and completed some highlight-reel saves.

“I had the luxury of sitting Friday night so I could pick up on some of the Bulls’ strategies,” Ismond said. “But I would credit the night to the guys in front of me who worked hard to block shots and keep the puck away from the net.”

Looking ahead to the Oklahoma series on Sept. 19 and 20, Fairman stressed the importance of improving.

“I don’t know if we will be ready, and I’m hoping Oklahoma will be dealing with the same issues,” Fairman said. “It’s still early, but the course of our season could be determined from these first games.”