No. 4 Cyclones look ahead to No. 12 Illinois

Senior forward Aaron Azevedo fights for the puck in a face-off against Illinois State. Azevedo contributed multiple assists during the first game in the weekend series.

Carlyn Ward

Cyclone Hockey hits the ice again Friday and Saturday night at home, looking to get two wins against the University of Illinois, a division rival.

Last weekend, the Cyclones split their home series against Robert Morris University with a 4-3 overtime loss Friday and a 1-0 shutout win Saturday.

This weekend, the Cyclones will look to build on their win from Saturday night.

“We looked more like our team from first semester [Saturday], so that was encouraging,” Jason Fairman, head coach and general manager, said.

Cyclone Hockey is ranked No. 4 in the ACHA, while the University of Illinois is ranked No. 12.

This — as well as the fact that the teams are CSCHL division rivals — will fuel motivation for this weekend’s games.

“[Division rivals] get used to playing each other, and they know what the other team’s going to do,” Tony Uglem, a senior forward, said. “They knew how to prepare for you, that’s the big thing.”

The Cyclones know all about this, having already played three of the CSCHL’s other teams: Lindenwood University, Ohio University and Robert Morris University. This weekend, however, will be the first meeting between Cyclone Hockey and the University of Illinois this season.

“We haven’t seen them this year, so we want to get them back on their heels early,” Aaron Azevedo, a senior forward, said.

Azevedo also said to get the outcome they want, the team needs to be better in the defensive zone this weekend and be a little cleaner with the puck.

This is something that other players agreed with, along with a few other aspects of their game.

“I think, defensively, we’re going to have to be really sharp,” Uglem said. “And offensively, I think we’ve been doing what we need to do to win hockey games, so hopefully we keep that up.”

Something that might give the Cyclones some extra momentum is being at home, in front of their fans.

Cyclone Hockey is currently on the second weekend of a four-weekend homestand before hitting the road again mid-February.

Fairman said it’s nice to have a long homestand with the schedule working out this way. Players like it, too, when they get to play in front of the home crowd.

“Anytime we can get home … get the crowd back into it, especially into this last stretch of the season,” Azevedo said. “it just creates this whole culture here and gets better and better every weekend.”

The Cyclones will face the University of Illinois at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday night at the Ames/ISU Ice Arena.