Win streak creates confidence ahead of Central Oklahoma series

Cyclone Hockey’s Jake Joyaux and a player from the University of Illinois race to the puck. Iowa State faced University of Illinois on Nov. 8.

Jared Bravard

With nine wins in its last 10 games, including four straight, Cyclone Hockey’s confidence increased.

The No. 24 Cyclones look to carry the confidence into the series against the No. 15 Central Oklahoma Bronchos (20-9-2).

“I think now, we just have a lot more confidence going into this weekend,” senior forward David Rutkowski said.

Cyclone Hockey (17-9-2) is coming off back to back sweeps, most recently on the road against then No. 12 Illinois.

Of the Cyclones 25 current players, 11 are freshmen. Coach Jason Fairman said he’s seen their maturity since the Central Oklahoma series in November of this season. He said they practice hard, have good energy and are very coachable. Fairman attributes the improvement to getting more games under their belts.

“They get it,” Fairman said. “I don’t even, I was joking with some people around Cyclone Hockey world saying that, ‘I can be on the bench, and I don’t even know if I need to say anything, because they are saying all the things I would say.’”

Freshman goalie Aaron LaChance filled in for senior Nikita Kozak the past three games. LaChance pitched a shutout against Northern Illinois and picked up two wins at Illinois. He made 66 saves over the three games and has a save percentage of 91.7.

The freshmen forward duo of Payton McSharry and Max Kamper have also helped the Cyclones recently.

McSharry’s streak of recording at least one point is now up to four games. He scored the game tying goal in the second period of game two against Illinois off an assist from fellow freshman Stuart Pearson and junior Dylan Goggin.

Kamper scored the short-handed game-winner in overtime in Friday’s 5-4 win in Illinois.

“I think it bodes well for our confidence,” Fairman said. “It was a battle this [past] weekend.”

The last series the Cyclones and Bronchos met, the 65 minutes did not offer enough time to find a winner, as the score was 1-1. The Bronchos went on to win the shootout and won game two 1-0 to complete the sweep.

Junior defenseman Justin Paulson echoed the words of Fairman and Rutkowski about the team’s confidence, saying it would be a key in the upcoming series.

“I think carrying that confidence that we’ve been bringing over to this weekend, it’s going to be nice to be on home ice again, too,” Paulson said.

Dating back to the 2014-15 season, these two teams have played a total of 21 games. They have split them as evenly as possible, with the Cyclone Hockey having 10 wins to Central Oklahoma’s 11.

In that span, the largest margin of victory for either side was three goals. The scoreboard showed a difference of just one goal when all was said and done in 11 of those games.

Fairman said the team is used to playing close games but will need to minimize its mistakes this weekend.

“I think they’re up for the challenge,” Fairman said. “It’s a formidable challenge, no question, but I think they’re prepared for it, and we feel we can beat anyone.”

The puck drops at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Ames/ISU Ice Arena.