It’s official. After a long and daunting 224 days, the NC State Icepack is finally making its return to Invisalign Arena for a home game against the Drexel Dragons this Friday, September 23rd at 8:15PM.
A lot has changed for the Icepack since their last game at home, a resounding 6-0 win over the West Virginia Mountaineers in mid-February. The team lost several veteran pieces from their corps, including the likes of two time All-American Chris Solomon. However, that has done little to slow down the team’s ambition and urgency for the upcoming season.
“We’re going to be a fast team,” said junior defenseman Jackson Cowen. “We’ve got a lot more young guys this year, guys who bring tempo and physicality to their game.” When asked what the team’s identity will be heading into the home opener, Cowen’s answer was simple: “fast, physical, and fun to watch.”
While the team may have plenty of new faces this season, they are certainly not lacking chemistry. “We’re a unit,” sophomore forward Thomas McEneny responded when asked to describe the team in one word. “We’ve developed a lot of chemistry in the little amount of time we’ve had with each other already, and it’ll only continue to grow as the season goes on.”
There’s no need to tell the Icepack how important home ice advantage can be in the ACHA, as the team posted a whopping 13-1 record at home last season, with their only defeat coming at the hands of the rival Liberty Flames. They’ve also learned just how important the team’s fans are. “We’re really looking forward to being able to play in front of our great fans again,” said sophomore forward Zack Robinson after Tuesday’s practice. “We look forward to having the opportunity to bounce back from a tough game in Virginia, and there’s no better way to do that than in front of our crowd.” Robinson scored one of the team’s three goals in a 9-3 loss to the Division I Liberty Flames team last Friday.
The Icepack are entering what can best be described as a “gauntlet” of a schedule at home. This year’s schedule features several games against opponents that are perennially viewed as nationals-bound teams, most notably the University of Mary Marauders, a team the Icepack fell to by a score of 5-1 in the quarterfinals of the 2021 ACHA M2 Nationals Tournament.
While it’s hard to not look too far into the future, the team knows they need to focus on this week’s game first, and the fans will need to help set the tone for what will undoubtedly be an intimidating home crowd all season long. “Tailgates, we need tailgates,” said sophomore forward Charles Monteith on Tuesday. “We need people getting rowdy before and during the game.”
Despite the cultivation of several different personalities, backgrounds, and ages, the team has one common goal in mind: a National tournament appearance, and a deep run at the championship to boot. However, their regular season schedule needs to be taken care of first, and there’s no better way for the Icepack to kick off their 2022-23 Division II Schedule than in front of their loyal and passionate fans.