While Thanksgiving is just around the corner, the Icepack had something bigger on their minds on a chilly Monday night in November: winning the Governor’s Cup. The Carolina Hurricanes may not have been in town at PNC Arena this Monday, but the Icepack made sure to keep the locker room warm, squaring off against the UNC Tar Heels on the big stage in the state’s capital.
As is often the tradition for the Governor’s Cup, the matchup highlighted the final game of the fall semester for both teams, and they certainly were each looking to finish their semesters with a win. The Tar Heels came into the game with some extra motivation, however, as they had been held winless in the five Governor’s Cups that’ve been held since its creation going into Monday’s tilt.
It’s not too often the Icepack is looking for redemption in matchups against UNC, but a 5-3 loss on home ice earlier this season at the hands of the Tar Heels gave the team a chance to redeem themselves in front of thousands of their loyal fans. Tag that onto a 5-3 win at home against the University of Cincinnati Bearcats on Saturday night, and you’ve got the recipe for a potential rebound for the boys in black and red.
Rivalry games can often be expected to be tight-knit, hard-fought battles early on. Unfortunately, this was most certainly not the case for the Icepack on Monday, as the Tar Heels controlled the tempo for nearly the entire opening frame. Despite being outshot 15-5 in the first period, sophomore netminder Isaac Tawyer stood tall between the pipes, allowing only one goal just before the halfway point in the first.
The second period looked much more like Icepack hockey, with the team controlling the play and getting multiple power play opportunities to boot. However, the momentum the Icepack built up was quickly stalled by two goals by the Tar Heels in the second half of the middle frame, extending the enemy lead to 3-0.
The Icepack was in desperate search of life entering the third period, with not much time to complete a 3-goal comeback. Thankfully, senior forward Alex Robinson answered the bell early, scoring a slick backhand tally just two minutes into the final period, cutting the UNC lead to two. True freshman Zach Herman continued the Icepack’s newfound momentum, notching a short-side tally to bring the score to 3-2. Unfortunately, the early onslaught of goals proved not enough, as the Tar Heels held onto the narrow lead through a back-and-forth third period and emerged victorious.
While life is certainly more fun when the Icepack is in action, some time to reflect on the previous semester may be just what the team needs to get out of their current funk. The loss at PNC Arena drops the Icepack’s overall record this season to 6-10-2, as well as a 3-3-0 record in ACCHL play. With just over a month until their next matchup, the Icepack certainly have plenty of time to recoup and gear up for a better second semester. The group returns to action just after New Years, where they will head to St. Louis to face off against Lindenwood, Davenport, and Trine University in the Lindenwood Showcase.
It’s never easy to lose a close game to your rivals, let alone two within a two-day span. Unfortunately, this is reality for the Icepack, as they come out of a weekend duel with the Liberty Flames winless. The Icepack took on Liberty in the recently-dubbed “Wagon Wheel” series, an annual contest between the two southeastern ACHA DII clubs aiming to be perennial National tournament contenders, suffering two one-goal losses in the process.
The series began last Friday at LaHaye Ice Center in Lynchburg, Virginia, with the NC State Icepack looking to find some steady ground and build momentum as the fall semester of play winds down. However, the game started off in opposite fashion, as Liberty took advantage of the traveling Icepack team, jumping out to a 2-0 lead after one period of play.
The group continued to demonstrate their season-long resilience, as goals by sophomores Philip Bailey and Zack Robinson would bring the game to a tie early in the third period. The game went back and forth for the remainder of the final frame, but saw the Icepack receive the short end of the stick, losing 5-4.
Game two shifted to Invisalign Arena in Raleigh, where the Icepack would seek to redeem themselves on home ice after a hard-fought loss a day prior. Despite changing locations for the second game, the team found themselves in familiar territory as game one, falling behind 1-0 early in the contest.
Another key Zack Robinson goal brought the game to 1-1 later in the first, which would prove to be the final goal of regulation. The team fought valiantly for 60-plus minutes, but found themselves on the bitter end of defeat once again, with Liberty scoring late in OT to seal the game, 2-1.
As is often the case with the densely-packed schedule the Icepack accrued this season, there’s little time to dwell on tough results. The University of Cincinnati Bearcats come to town for a two-game contest this weekend, a team the Icepack defeated in decisive fashion in Cincinnati last season, notching 7-1 and 8-3 wins. The teams face off this weekend at 8:35PM EST on Friday night and 8:15PM EST on Saturday night at Invisalign Arena.