Final series for Murdoch, Hudson before three-week departure

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Goalie Erik Hudson and a few of his teammates stop an attempted goal by a Lindenwood opponent during the match Friday, Dec. 3, at the Ames/ISU Ice Arena. The Cyclones fell to the Lions 4-2.

Dan Kassan

Serving your country, in any form, is always a great honor. Beginning this month, coach Al Murdoch and goalie Erik Hudson will receive that honor, as they travel to Turkey to play in the World University Games.

This weekend’s matchup against the University of Illinois marks the last time both will be with the team until the final series of the year against Lindenwood University in February.

“You know, it’s been a dream of mine since I was young,” Hudson said. “It’s an honor, it’s a privilege, and I can’t take it for granted.”

Team USA competed over Christmas break in Vermont against three NCAA Division I teams. Their final tune-up will be next week in Chicago before the start of the Games on Jan. 27.

Before all that takes place, Hudson, Murdoch and the rest of the Cyclones square off against an Illinois team that has a similar team setup. The Illini are a young team that, because of their unique ice arena, use speed to control the puck and create opportunities.

“They split with [No. 1] Lindenwood last weekend,” Murdoch said. “They’re well-coached. I have all the respect in the world for Chad Cassel, their coach. He prepares his team well.”

Iowa State has a reputation for being well conditioned. Murdoch coaches his team to be the better-prepared team when the second game of a two-game series arrives. But ISU players acknowledge Cassel similarly focuses on conditioning with his players.

“I would describe them like pests,” Hudson said. “They never go away, they work hard. If you get up on them by four or five goals they won’t go away, they keep working hard.”

So how do you get rid of these ‘pests’? Attack early and often.

“It will set the tone for Saturday if we get on them early Friday. We definitely want to intimidate them and get them out of the way early, as quick as possible,” Hudson said.

In late October, the Cyclones took their first road trip of the season to Champagne, Ill. Iowa State dropped the first game 2-1, but came back in traditional fashion and beat Illinois by the same score to earn the split. In the head-to-head history between these league rivals, the Cyclones hold the all-time edge. But recently, it has been Illinois who has come out on top.

“We know it’ll be good hockey,” Murdoch said. “Illinois is a very fast team, but we’re fast too. We’ve been showing what we’re capable of speed-wise, last two weeks.”

Associate coach Brian Wierson will be taking the reigns in the absence of Murdoch, and sophomore Paul Karus and freshman Scott Ismond will split duties between the pipes in place of Hudson. But during his final series before his departure, Hudson expects nothing less at home.

“In my mind, we need a sweep,” Hudson said. “We need our forwards to step up like they did last weekend and our defensemen to play well.”

The first home series of 2011 begins at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Ames/ISU Ice Arena.