Cyclones embracing underdog role

Clint Cole

The ISU hockey team began the 2011-12 season ranked No. 12 in the preseason rankings and are currently ranked No. 7. When the American Collegiate Hockey Association released the fourth rankings of the season on Nov. 18, the Cyclones were ranked No. 5.

Some coaches would be embracing such a high ranking, but ISU coach Al Murdoch would rather not.

“I’ve been pretty low key on that,” Murdoch said.

On Nov. 18 and 19, the Cyclones played two games at Ohio. The Cyclones were ranked No. 5 for those games and Ohio was ranked No. 6 after being beaten by unranked Indiana the previous week.

“I’m not sure I want to be above Ohio going into Ohio,” Murdoch said. “I would rather be the underdog going into Ohio.”

The Cyclones were swept that weekend, losing 4-1 and 3-2 in a shootout.

So far this season, the Cyclones are 8-4-1-3 against top 25 opponents with seven of those victories being in Ames. However, the Cyclones have lost four straight games to ranked opponents.

After the sweep by Ohio, the Cyclones were swept at home weeks later against No. 4 Lindenwood.

In games where the Cyclones are ranked lower than their opponents, they are 2-2-1-1. These games include a split with Oklahoma in Ames on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, a split with Arizona State in Tempe, Ariz., on Nov. 4 and 5 and the sweep by Lindenwood.

The Cyclones’ captain Brian Rooney said he agrees with Murdoch and would rather be the underdog “at times.”

“You always want to come from where nobody can see you,” Rooney said. “I want teams, when they look down at those rankings, I want them to look right over our heads so we can sneak up on them and steal some games, kind of like what we did against Arizona State.”

Rooney compared this to being 5-foot-7 and going to hit a guy and wanting him to look over his head and not see him coming.

“You have to have a chip on your shoulder all the time,” Rooney said. “You have to have a lot of confidence, but at the same time you have to know that the job’s never done.

“No matter how well we do or how well we perform as a team, we can’t be satisfied with anything we do out there. We always have to strive for perfection.”

The Cyclones aren’t scheduled to play another ranked team until Jan. 20 when they travel to Champaign, Ill., to play No. 9 Illinois. This is unless Indiana, which is receiving votes, finds a way to climb into the rankings before they host the Cyclones on Jan. 6 and 7.