“It was really big for us to jump out to the early lead,” Volkman said. “I was really happy with both our effort and execution in the first period. We just need to work on maintaining that level of play.”
Duke scored on a power play in the second period to make it 3-1, but was kept in check for most of the night by goalkeeper Chris Bakolia.
The game got more physical in the second and third periods, with a few skirmishes between opposing players.
“Hockey’s a physical game,” Richard said before the game. “That’s what makes it fun. You’ve got to go out there ready to hit, and ready to be hit, too.”
The Marching Tar Heels brought a pep band to help cheer on the team and keep the crowd lively throughout the night. Most of the fans at the game were supporting the Tar Heels, including one who caught a free souvenir when an errant flip pass sent a puck over the glass.
The game was not only important for the team’s season, but also for club fundraising. The team practices at the Orange County Sportsplex in Hillsborough, roughly 20 minutes away from campus. They have to pay for ice time each practice, which doesn’t come cheap.
“Because we are in the South, hockey isn’t super popular,” club president Nick Keith said. “That makes it hard when it comes to getting fans to come out and generating funds. That’s why these games at PNC are so important, because more people are excited to come watch.”
Keith said the most important quality the team looks for in prospective players during tryouts is their level of commitment. In order for the club to be able to succeed, the best players need to be the most committed.
“We really have a great group of guys out here,” Keith said. “Everyone comes in focused and ready to work hard, but we also have a lot of fun. It’s almost like its own little fraternity, and we all come together with a common goal.”
Keith has played all four years, and was a member of the 2015 Atlantic Coast Conference Hockey League Championship team – the first in club history. He said that while that team relied on a few more talented players, this team is more focused on playing within the system.
“It’s mostly younger players at this point,” Keith said. “We’ve kind of transitioned from a team of purely skilled individual players, to now where we have a lot of younger guys who have better chemistry and work together a little better, which makes the team function better as a whole more than years past.”
Regan said he’s been well-received by his new teammates, and he’s optimistic about the club’s future.
“I feel like our squad right now is progressively getting better and understanding how to play together,” Regan said. “Our team chemistry is great, and right now we’re trending up.”
The team plays again Friday against UNC-Charlotte in Indian Trail, N.C. and Saturday against High Point University in Hillsborough. They'll be back at PNC Arena Nov. 20 when they play North Carolina State University and expect as many as 10,000 fans to attend.