Weekend series fuels Cyclone Hockey rivalry

Junior forward Alex Grupe goes after the puck against Central Oklahoma. He scored a goal during the first period of the game. The final score was a loss for the cyclones of 2 to 4. 

Austin Anderson

It might have started early in the first period Friday night when Aaron Azevedo was leading a charge toward the net of Central Oklahoma and was shoved by Broncho’s goaltender Alex Henry, starting the series’ first scuffle.

It could have started after one of the 17 penalties called on the two teams Friday night.

Maybe it was started after Jake Arroyo was ejected from Saturday night’s game in the opening period.

Or maybe this rivalry was started nearly one calendar year ago when Central Oklahoma knocked off Cyclone Hockey in the playoffs and proceeded to win the national championship.

Either way, there is no mistaking that the matchup between Central Oklahoma and Cyclone Hockey is as physical of a rivalry as any in the American Collegiate Hockey Association.

And that rivalry rekindled over the weekend at the Ames/ISU Ice Arena, where the Bronchos swept the Cyclones on Friday and Saturday night by the score of 4-2 and 4-1, respectively. 

“It’s obvious we don’t like each other very much, the teams don’t,” said forward Tony Uglem, who had the lone goal for the Cyclones on Saturday night. “It’s a battle all the way through for every piece of ice.”

The rivalry was also fueled by many of the players having played with and against each other in the junior leagues and having both teams a consistent force among the ACHA’s top teams during the last few years.

“As long as I’ve been here for the last four years, both teams get up pretty well for these games,” said senior Alex Stephens.

Cyclone Hockey has other rivals across the league like Illinois, which the Cyclones played just two weeks ago. But unlike the Illini, Central Oklahoma doesn’t have the label of an interstate rivalry, and the Cyclones and Bronchos are in different divisions.

The rivalry between these two teams was created through physicality and continuous memorable matchups.

“You just get more amped up for it,” Uglem said. “Just knowing what happened last year gets us excited. It just feels like playoff hockey.”

In playoff hockey, the physicality rises to a much higher level. There was no shortage of physicality and chirping back and forth between the teams this weekend.

“They’re just that chippy style of team,” Azevedo said. “Behind the play, they’re always kind of hacking at you, and after it happens a couple of times, you start sticking up for each other.

“You have to be smart about it, but you also have to prove a point that you’re not going to back down if they’re going to go after your teammates.”

The physical play was exciting for what appeared to be the two largest home crowds of the season, but the penalties and chirping might have been what got the Cyclones in trouble.

“We got caught up in that and lost our focus,” said Cyclone Hockey coach Jason Fairman. “That’s what I think changed the game.”

After the Cyclones swept the Bronchos on the road last time around, the Bronchos did the same in Ames in the last regular season matchup between the two squads.

But like last season, the chance to meet again in the playoffs looms on the horizon.

“I would absolutely like to meet them again in playoffs and beat them,” Uglem said.