October 23rd, 7:00 PM: N.C. State Icepack gear up to face the Liberty Flames Division 1 team in a match-up to kick off the delayed and much anticipated season.
This offseason, the Icepack have gone through a huge change after moving out of the Raleigh Ice Plex and into the newly built state of the art facility at the Wake Competition Center in Morrisville N.C. The Icepack’s new home holds its own new locker room for the team thanks to generous donations and fundraising. The players and staff are pumped to be a part of it.
The team has been preparing for what will be one of the most exciting opportunities of the year for just over a month now. From power skating, special teams, defensive play, and developing a strong offense, the players and coaches couldn’t be more excited to go to battle against the Flames in Lynchburg. Tonight, Tim Healy will be making his debut as Head Coach. Healy has been promoting a much faster pace of play this year and getting the players conditioned to be able to play at that pace. Now in his 4th year, he has brought home 2 ACCHL championships, made 2 appearances at regionals, and a nationals appearance as the team’s Assistant Coach.
This season the Icepack will be bringing back a lot of offensive firepower on the top 2 lines. The first line holds 3 of the top 4 team leaders in points from last year including last year’s Freshman standout Chris Solomon (#27) who led the team in points (54) and goals (28) during last season. He is joined by center Parker Szarek (#25) and winger Riley Johnson (#11) who are both offensive studs and outstanding players. Last year these 3 combined for a total of 143 points and will only look to improve upon that total in this year’s campaign.
The top line is not the only line that can create opportunities to put pucks in the net. The team shows a lot of depth this year lead by team captain Eric Todd (#19), Alex Robinson (#21), Garrett Auriene (#17) as well as some rookies who will be looking to shine in their debut.
On the defensive side, it will be a solid group. Another Freshman standout from a season ago Victor Hugo (#29) is returning to the Icepack this season who led all defensive players in points with 26, and is ready to go to battle with his defensive unit. Including Icepack President Ian O’Rourke (#28) and Devin Halko (#24) who both put up good numbers last season.
Goaltenders Josh Cannon, Griffin Hunt, and Eric Daniel will each get time in tonight's game. Cannon(#42), a returning 5th-year Senior who posted a 10-2 record last season as the Icepack starting netminder, had a .915 save percentage all while allowing 2.25 goals against. Griffin Hunt (#33), will also make an appearance in the game against the Flames. In his sophomore campaign a year ago he went undefeated in the 4 games he started for the Icepack. During those 4 games, he posted a team-high .930 save percentage and allowed a team-low 2.00 goals against in that span. Eric Daniel (#35) will be making his debut in between the pipes.
The Liberty Flames are led by Kirk Handy, the reigning ACHL Head Coach of the Year. He’s in his 20th year with the team. Handy is a former Flame who is their all-time leading goal scorer and former ACHL player of the year. He started coaching with the program right after graduation in 2000. His record stands at an outstanding 455-155-40 in his time as a coach and looks to build on that record this season with the 23 game schedule they have in place.
The Flames went 33-4-0 last season which was the best record in program history including going 18-2 in ESCHL and winning its 3rd league title in their 4th season in the conference. They finished 2nd in the ACHL and were ranked in that position for the final 3 months of the season. However, they were not able to finish their historic year as they couldn’t compete for a National Championship in Texas due to the pandemic.
Liberty holds one of the most talented rosters in the country and are poised to be a tough test for the Icepack as they begin regular season play. Starting at the top, Quinn Ryan (#19) led the Flames in points (65) and assists (43) and 3rd on the team in goals (22), Another player with incredible offensive skills is Josh Fricks (#86). He led the Flames in goals with 29 and will certainly be a player the Icepack will have to do all they can to limit his production. Liberty has talent from top to bottom on the offensive side, and the pack will have to find a way to respond. Liberty will be missing 2 great players from last season in Arturas Laukaitis and Jordan Bochinski who were both top 5 in points on the team a season ago but will look for returning players to fill those roles.
On the back end, the Flames are bringing back Garrett Nelson (#46) who had an unbelievable year for the Flames last season. Finishing with a total of 54 points, 12 goals, and 42 assists Nelson showed incredible offensive production and being an elite defender he was able to earn himself a spot on last year’s ACHL First Team alongside his teammate Quinn Ryan. Reigning ACHL Rookie of the year Collin Baird (#5) took the blue line by storm with the flames. The inaugural award winner put up 31 points and shuts offenses down nightly. You can expect to hear his name a lot this season as he will be getting a bigger role within the system in efforts for the Flames to win games.
Cedric LeSieur (#88) looks to be the frontrunner to get the nod in net tonight for the Flames. LeSieur started the most games last year for the team going 15-1 allowing only 1.90 goals against and stopping .923 percent of the shots he faced. Backing up LeSieur will be Tyler Myles (#29) will play his fair share of games after an impressive season last year going 11-2 with a 2.36 goals-against average and a .901 save percentage. The final goalie you may see for Liberty in this game is Hunter Virostek (#35). He did not see as much ice time as the other goalies last season, but when he did he went 7-1 with a 2.12 goals-against average and saving .922 percent of the shots on goal.
If you will be one of the 765 people watching in the stands, you are in for a treat to see these 2 teams battle it out on the ice. If you are not able to attend, be sure to watch the game on ESPN+ at 7:00 on Friday, October 23rd.
You can find out more about the Icepack by checking out our YouTube channel @NC State Icepack to keep up with our new behind the scenes show Icepack: All Access.