The North Carolina men’s club ice hockey team fell to N.C. State, 7-3, in a Monday night clash at Carter-Finley Stadium.
Within just the first 18 seconds of the puck drop, North Carolina found the back of the net on a fast break by forward Dan O’Hear. However, the Tar Heels’ advantage was short lived as 20 seconds later, the Wolfpack countered with a quick goal of their own, tying the game 1-1 within the first minute of play. After several shots on goal, N.C. State expanded the lead 2-1 with a long range, low angle shot inside 12 minutes to play in the first period.
With a series of quick passes down the ice, the Wolfpack capitalized on a 2-on-1 opportunity and cashed in their third goal of the night two minutes later, stretching the lead 3-1 at the 9:08 mark. Following a chippy exchange behind the visitors net, the Tar Heels were penalized for hooking to close out the first period with the score remaining 3-1. UNC bested N.C.S.U. 13 to 9 on shots on goal, but struggled to get past senior goaltender Eric Daniel of the Ice Pack.
Following the first intermission, North Carolina heated up on offense with a series of consecutive shots on target. A resilient Tar Heel defense kept N.C.S.U. off the board through the first ten minutes, but eventually conceded a left-wing score by sophomore forward Zack Herman. Physicality and icing calls defined the end of the second period, with UNC taking a 4-1 deficit into the second intermission.
After the start of the third period, the Tar Heels briefly took out goalie Joel Hughes for an extra attacker to reignite a dormant offense. A second slapshot goal by Dan O’Hear on a cross-ice assist provided UNC with much needed momentum going into the final stretch, now down 4-2 with 15 minutes remaining in regulation. The Wolfpack soon shut down the comeback effort with a fifth score at the 7:30 mark by senior forward Matt Miller and never looked back. After a deflating interference call near the end of the third period, UNC did net a consolation goal on a last-chance, two-assist effort, but ended the evening in a 7-3 defeat.
Who stood out?
Graduate forward Daniel O’Hear was an immediate standout from the first face off, responsible for both Tar Heel goals and keeping a struggling offense afloat with breakaways and quick strikes from the wings throughout the contest. First-year goaltender Lucas Brown also made an impact with a string of acrobatic saves to begin the second period that prevented N.C.S.U from further extending their lead.
On the Ice Pack, Zach Herman led the way with a hatrick and explosive offensive presence for N.C.S.U that North Carolina couldn’t contain. The goaltender rotation for N.C. State was unphased after the early North Carolina ambush, holding the Tar Heels scoreless for the next period and a half.
When was it decided?
After retaking the lead early in the first period, the Wolfpack controlled the remainder of the matchup and never allowed the Tar Heels within 2 goals of their lead. The estimated 26,000 in attendance slowly trickled out throughout the third period as the competitiveness of the contest slowly faded.
Why does it matter?
The Tar Heels enter play tonight with a commanding 3-1 series lead over the Ice Pack this season, including a victory in the Governor's Cup, and 16-10 overall record in the ACHA. Ranked 10 and 11 respectively in the southeast conference, NCSU and UNC are both seeking a statement rivalry win at Carter Finley following the outdoor NHL Stadium Series.
When do they play next?
North Carolina will face an undecided opponent in ACHA regional tournament on 2/24 at an away venue to be named later.
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