Nearly 11 months after their last season ended, the Missouri State Ice Bears opened the 2020-21 season at home against Iowa State on Jan. 8 and 9.
The Cyclones are considered to be an American Collegiate Hockey Association national title contender, making the series important for the Ice Bears to win in order to get a spot at the ACHA national tournament in April.
Iowa State jumped ahead early in the first game on Friday, scoring just two-and-a-half minutes into the first period. Junior winger Hunter Cooley tied the game for MSU in the midpoint of the first period, but Iowa State took a 2-1 lead to close out the frame.
To open the second period, the Cyclones scored on a powerplay, an occurrence which became a theme as the series progressed. The Ice Bears got two goals from freshman center Jacob Wiethaupt and junior winger Henry Lohman, but Iowa State scored two goals to answer. Iowa State held a 4-3 lead going into the third period.
Iowa State scored two more goals in the third to extend its lead to 6-3. Lohman added one more goal, but the game ended 6-4.
Head coach Jeremy Law said he felt the Ice Bears played well for stretches but lacked any continuity.
“We did see flashes of brilliance and chemistry,” Law said. “It being the first time on the ice in a game situation together — we’re still trying to figure each other out. Half the game we were right there with them — the better team even. Just no consistency.”
Saturday’s game had a different start, but lack of consistency was a problem again for the Ice Bears.
After a scoreless first period, MSU scored two goals on a five-minute major powerplay. The first came from freshman defenseman Samuel Frederick and the second from junior forward Louis Chaix just 14 seconds after Frederick’s.
A minute later, senior forward Alex Rubin scored, giving MSU a 3-0 lead.
Then, penalties happened for the Ice Bears.
A four-on-four matching minor call turned into a four-on-three powerplay for Iowa State, which it scored on. A hooking call shortly after the first batch of penalties expired gave the Cyclones another powerplay, which they promptly scored on. They scored another goal a few minutes after.
Eight seconds after ISU’s third goal, it added a third to take a 4-3 lead.
Eight minutes into the third period, Lohman scored again, tying the game 4-4. The tie held for the rest of the period and five minutes of 3-on-3 overtime.
Ultimately, Iowa State came away victorious 5-4 in the eighth round of a shootout.
The second period collapse doomed the Ice Bears, according to assistant coach Clif Cook.
“We lost our composure — too many penalties,” Cook said. “That really burned us. We can sit here and say that some of the calls might have been soft, but we got to have better composure either way. I don’t think it was a case of us letting up at all, we were still playing hard. We just shot ourselves in the foot.”
The Ice Bears play in the Western Collegiate Hockey League, a 10-team group in ACHA Division I which this year includes Missouri State, Oklahoma, Central Oklahoma, Colorado, Colorado State, Utah State, Arizona, Arizona State, Grand Canyon University and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. As of now, the Ice Bears are the only team of the 10 playing a season. Arizona State has announced it will not be playing a season. Law said Arizona is in a situation where it cannot travel to play games. Several other teams are still in the process of deciding how and if they can play.
To deal with this, the Ice Bears have a schedule composed entirely of non-WCHL teams. The team plays next at Lindenwood University on Jan. 15 and 16.