Cyclone Hockey hosts No.2 Ohio in biggest weekend of the season


Junior Alex Stephens beats a Cougar to the puck during a game against the Southern Illinois-Edwardsville Cougars on Sep. 19. The Cyclones would go on to win 11-1.

Austin Anderson

The Ames/ISU Ice Arena will be filled by not only eager fans this weekend, but also some of the best hockey players who have ever donned the cardinal and gold Cyclone Hockey jersey during the the team’s Hall of Fame/Alumni weekend.

And it will be a good weekend for the former players to watch the current ones. The No. 5 Cyclones will take on the No. 2 Ohio Bobcats, who double as their Central States Collegiate Hockey League rival. 

“It’s definitely not the average weekend, a lot of prep goes into a week before Ohio,” said co-captain Alex Stephens. “They are a very system-oriented and a disciplined team, so our systems will have to be sharp as well. Since it’s alumni weekend there will be some added Cyclone Hockey guys watching the games, so that adds to the atmosphere for sure.

“The anticipation can definitely be felt.”

Last weekend and this weekend have been the most anticipated of the season. Last weekend, Cyclone Hockey traveled to defending champion Central Oklahoma and came home with a sweep to improve to 6-0.

Even after the eagerly awaited sweep of Central Oklahoma, Cyclone Hockey coach Jason Fairman is still trying to improve the discipline of the team. He said there are too many missed opportunities to play at full strength.

“If we play five-on-five, we can beat any team,” Fairman said. “No question.”

After Central Oklahoma ended the Cyclones’ season last year, the revenge moved the Cyclones up from No. 7 to No. 5 in the American Collegiate Hockey Association rankings, but Stephens said the rivalry with Ohio is even greater.

“It was nice to see a little bump in the ranking for us, but it’s definitely not where we want to be,” Stephens said. “The sweep was huge, but beating Ohio would be even bigger.”

And there is more at stake against Ohio than just two potential victories in the win column.

“I’m excited to see what kind of team we have,” Fairman said. “We got tested this weekend — and that’s no disrespect to Central Oklahoma — but with this hostile environment, potentially the No. 1 ranking in the nation and the Hall of Fame/Alumni weekend, there’s a lot on the line [against Ohio].”

Ohio started the season 6-0 and has maintained its No. 2 ranking throughout the entire season. The Bobcats are led by an explosive frontline featuring forwards Michael Harris and Matthew Rudin, who have combined for 21 points through six games.

“I don’t have a philosophy as a coach where I want to focus on other players too much. I think that distracts guys from what we need to do as a team,” Fairman said. “I’m obviously more concerned with what we’re doing and if we’re executing. If we’re doing that, I think we’ll be successful.

“They’re both great players, but if we’re doing our job, we’ll be able to neutralize them to some degree.”

The Bobcats possess arguably the best frontline in the league, and it will be a matchup to keep an eye on as they go head to head against a strong Cyclone defense.

“We know how we are supposed to play every night and what we are capable of doing,” said co-captain Cory Sellers. “As long as we worry about ourselves and stick with our game, we should be perfectly fine controlling their offense.”

Fairman said he expects the Ames/ISU Ice Arena to be packed to max capacity this weekend, and for good reason.

“In the regular season, this is arguably one of the biggest games since I’ve been here,” Fairman said.