After playing in one of the greatest spectacles in ACHA history just mere days ago, the Icepack now looks to redirect their focus to a bigger task ahead. The upcoming weekend marks the ACHA South Regionals, a single-elimination tournament in Springfield, Virginia in which the two teams left standing on Sunday will each receive a bid to the 2023 National Tournament. The schedule was recently released for which teams will play on Friday in the opening games, and I bet you can’t guess who the Icepack drew in their first matchup…
That’s right, the UNC Tar Heels. What’re the odds? Game 6 is normally a phrase you hear in regards to a gridlocked and tight-knit NHL playoff series, but that isn’t the case here. The bitter rivals will face off for the sixth and final time this season in Virginia on Friday night, each with hopes of punching their ticket to the Gateway City in mid-March. The Icepack walk into regionals down two games to three in their season series against UNC, but have a few advantages that may prove to be the difference upon puck drop.
The most notable advantage the Icepack has on the Tar Heels coming into their regional matchup is an ironic one: UNC making the ACCHL Championship Game. While this initially seemed to be a tough break for the Icepack a few weeks ago, falling short of capturing their fifth straight ACCHL Championship, stadium issues forced the championship game between the Tar Heels and Penn State Nittany Lions to be played this Thursday instead. This forces UNC to go from Winston-Salem, North Carolina to Springfield, Virginia overnight in order to make their Friday night matchup against the Icepack, and provides NC State with the chance to take advantage of a tired, emotional team with car legs.
Another leg-up the Icepack has on the Tar Heels is something they haven’t had all season long up until this point: momentum. Through their first three matchups this season, the Tar Heels managed to win all three, including two wins in Raleigh. However, momentum changes quickly in the game of hockey, and it’s currently swinging the Icepack’s direction. The boys in red have won their past two games against UNC, once on the road and most recently in front of 26,000 fans at Carter-Finley Stadium outdoors.
The Icepack has had an extremely successful week thus far, collecting spotlight from several major news outlets and social media pages for playing in one of the largest outdoor collegiate hockey games in history. However, there are bigger fish to fry for NC State, with the ultimate season goal on the line this weekend. It’s been a week of NC State dominance over UNC, and the Icepack will look to keep that trend going on Friday night.