The Final Buzzer: Cyclone Hockey’s season ends in ACHA quarterfinals


Blake Lanser/Iowa State Daily

Senior defensive player Antti Helanto reaches for the puck while it is in Ohio’s possession. Iowa State suffered a 4-2 loss to the Bobcats on Nov. 1.

Luke Manderfeld

Scott Antonsen had pulled the team within one goal just five minutes prior, but Cyclone Hockey needed just one more with 50 seconds left.

Matt Cooper was pulled with 1:22 remaining in the game, giving the Cyclones a 6-on-5 advantage. The Cyclones were threatening to force an overtime.

Shot: just wide. Shot: off the goaltender’s pad.

But as the puck skittered to center ice and Central Oklahoma buried an empty-net goal from 60 feet out, all of that wishful thinking vanished.

The scoreboard, just a piece of metal with wiring, meant something much more as it ticked off precious seconds of the Cyclones’ season.

0:02 … 0:01 … 0:00 … it was over.

Cyclone Hockey’s season came to an end Sunday after dropping a 5-3 game to the No. 2 Central Oklahoma Bronchos in the quarterfinals of the American Collegiate Hockey Association National Tournament. The Cyclones upset the No. 7 Oklahoma Sooners 3-1 in the previous game to move into the quarterfinals.

After coming into the tournament as a likely lock to only play teams seeded higher than them, the No. 10 Cyclones (24-14-6) managed to make the quarterfinals and grab the first of two upsets in the tournament.

It started with No. 7 Oklahoma (28-10) — a team that the Cyclones beat once in four games in the regular season. But the Cyclones were a new team entering the tournament. Captain Mike Dopko said after the sweep against Midland on Feb. 28 that they were on the way to “hitting their peak.”

He may have been right.

The Cyclones employed their neutral-zone defense that focuses on picking off long passes and forcing opponent’s mistakes. Oklahoma, a team that likes to spread out its offense, had trouble figuring out how to beat the Cyclones in the neutral and defensive zones.

The scoring woes for the Cyclones didn’t seem to faze them as they tallied three goals on 42 shots to grab the victory. It was a victory that not many people expected the Cyclones to earn.

“I think the guys in our locker room were the only ones in the nation who thought we were going to win that game,” said senior Nate Percy. “We’ve been through everything you can throw at us this year and we were just ready. We knew we’re a playoff team.”

That wasn’t all the win did for the team. After the upset win against Oklahoma, the Cyclones were in high spirits. They grabbed onto the confidence they gained in beating a higher-ranked opponent.

“We just kept battling,” said Cyclone Hockey head coach Jason Fairman. “We had a lot of fight in us. It was good to see that we wanted it. The guys were determined. They had no quit in them.”

The Cyclones took that new-found motivation and put it to work against the Bronchos (31-5-1) in a game that was characterized by after-the-whistle scuffles and penalties.

Despite it being the quarterfinals, both teams weren’t afraid of making their intentions clear as pushes quickly turned into headlocks in some cases.

“That’s just a normal part of hockey,” said forward J.P. Kascsak. “The referees let everyone play. And the ones they did call were pretty obvious like a [Central Oklahoma] player putting Chase Rey in a headlock. You would think there was wrestling tryouts or something.”

The Cyclones went into the third period tied at two with the Bronchos, but 10 minutes into the final period, the Bronchos put two goals on the board. It was too big of a hole for the Cyclones to crawl out of.

The Cyclones waved goodbye to their faithful one final time before returning to the locker room.

It was a somber scene.

“It was a pretty emotional scene for the guys,” said senior Antti Helanto. “I consider myself lucky to be part of this program. For me to be a part of this team for four years is something special. It was a bittersweet ending for the whole team.”

To read about the Cyclones’ upset against the Sooners, click here.

To read about the loss that sent the Cyclones home, click here.