Cyclone Hockey sweeps Illinois State, lacks effort

Cyclone+Hockey%C2%A0senior+forward+Alex+Stephens+celebrates+his+point+during+the+game+against+the+Illinois+State+Redbirds+on+Friday+night.+The+Cyclones+would+go+on+to+win+4-2.

Cyclone Hockey senior forward Alex Stephens celebrates his point during the game against the Illinois State Redbirds on Friday night. The Cyclones would go on to win 4-2.

Austin Anderson

Cyclone Hockey coach Jason Fairman stood in the locker room after his team recorded a 4-2 victory against Illinois State on Friday night and asked his players what they needed to improve upon and what the issues were.

Fairman and his players agreed that the effort was lacking.

“They didn’t put the effort in and they thought things were just going to happen without doing the work,” Fairman said.

The No. 5 Cyclones did the work they came to do on the scoreboard during the weekend against the unranked Redbirds, grabbing a pair of wins. 

But the scoreboard can only tell the story of the games to a certain extent.

D.J. Mussey netted the first goal of the game in the first game of the two-game series Friday night for Illinois State, which gave the Redbirds a 1-0 lead after the first period.

Early in the second period, Illinois State broke away and Parker Johnson put in the rebound for a short-handed goal to put the Cyclones in a tough 2-0 hole.

“We are clearly a more-skilled team, everyone could see that, you could see it in warm-ups,” Fairman said. “But it came down to effort, heart and desire, and we didn’t have it.”

Cyclone Hockey found itself in a surprising hole, but co-captain Alex Stephens said the team was never worried about being able to come back.

“We have seen adversity before in a little different way than this,” Stephens said.

In the middle of the second period the Cyclones had missed opportunities before Stephens was able to get the Cyclones on the scoreboard at 11:24 off an assist from Eero Helanto.

Jake Arroyo tied the game at two a couple minutes later and Aaron Azevedo gave Cyclone Hockey the lead for good in the third period.

“It showed our team had character and work ethic. You can never count us out,” Stephens said.

Fairman was pleased his team was able to secure the win but said the team should have never had to come back. 

“I’ll give them credit for that, for coming back from two goals down. This game should have never been that close,” Fairman said.

Fairman was still not pleased with the effort his team displayed.

“I don’t want to go all season wondering which team is going to show up: the team that is going to give an effort or the team that doesn’t,” Fairman said. “If they give an effort, we’re one of the best teams in the nation, no question. If we don’t give an effort, we’re not good. We’re not a top-25 team.”

Effort has been a key problem for Cyclone Hockey in recent games, originating in its Friday night loss to Ohio the weekend prior.

Cyclone Hockey had a chance to improve on its effort woes and come out with a strong effort against the Redbirds Saturday night. 

A 3-0 lead after the first period seemed to put the Cyclones well on its way to a dominant victory and go a long ways towards solving the effort problem.

But two quick goals to open the second period for Illinois State against goaltender Derek Moser, brought up the everlasting question of effort once again.

“We’ve got some issues with guys taking shifts off,” Fairman said. “I told them we need to come back to work on Monday and address some of our deficiencies as a team. We can be great at times and have mental lapses at others.”

The Cyclones went on to score the next three goals and finish off the Redbirds for good with seven different players scoring for the Cyclones in its 7-3 Saturday night victory.

“We really wanted to come out and give a better effort this weekend,” said forward Preston Blanek. “From [Friday] night to [Saturday] night I feel like we were even able to bring the effort a little bit more.”

The struggling efforts have Fairman concerned for the tough upcoming schedule. 

“There are some glaring issues with our team that I don’t think is going to serve us long term,” Fairman said. “We’re going to get exposed against teams like Ohio and Lindenwood next weekend. There’s an urgency that, on Monday, we need to come to work and address those issues.”