The North Carolina men’s club ice hockey team put itself on the map last year.
UNC defeated N.C. State at PNC Arena to win its first Governor's Cup in school history last season to burst onto the scene. As the team gained popularity, the Tar Heels found themselves playing against the Icepack again, in front of over 25,000 fans at Carter-Finley Stadium.
Eventually, North Carolina fell one win short of making the 2023 American Collegiate Hockey Association Division II National Tournament, losing 2-1 to Kentucky in the Southeast Regionals.
On Saturday, UNC will look to get revenge against Kentucky in its home opener at the Orange County Sportsplex in Hillsborough. Here's three keys things to watch for in North Carolina's new-look team.
Attention to detail on defense
Kentucky is fast and physical. UNC sophomore forward Patrick O’Shaughnessy admitted that considering the Wildcats’ skill, the Tar Heels can't afford to make the same mistakes as they do against other teams.
According to O’Shaughnessy, head coach Adam Dauda has emphasized neutral zone protection more over the past week.
When the puck is in the neutral zone — between the blue lines in the middle of the ice — Dauda wants his squad to execute a forecheck, with one player going directly for the puck, two more supporting and the last staying behind.
O'Shaughnessy mentioned that containing cross-ice passes are another focus, given that they are a common method of outnumbering an opponent on counterattacks.