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UNC club ice hockey falls to N.C. State, 5-4, in rivalry matchup

20231027_Zinn_Sports-IceHockey-vs-NCSU-17.jpg
UNC senior forward Cole Kosowski (13) looks to recieve a pass during the men’s club ice hockey game against NC State University at the Wake Competition Center Invisalign Arena in Morrisville on Friday, Oct. 27, 2023. UNC fell to NCSU 4-5.

The North Carolina men’s club ice hockey team (6-5, 6-4 ACCHL) was defeated by N.C. State (6-6, 6-5 ACCHL) 5-4, Friday night in an away game thriller at the Wake Competition Center. 

The Tar Heel and Ice Pack rivalry has lived up to its billing in the past, as the teams faced off six times last season – with North Carolina winning the season series four games to two. Last year, UNC defeated N.C. State in the 2022 Governor's cup to win the trophy for the first time in team history, before also ending the Ice Pack’s postseason run with a victory in the first round of the ACHA tournament. 

A high pace set the tone for the evening as both teams spent the first few minutes trading the puck in possession all over the ice. Taking a few minutes to settle into the quick start, neither team was able to build any significant attacks until midway through the first period.

After 12 minutes of play, N.C. State was first to break through the defensive deadlock. An Ice Pack forward planted near UNC’s net deflected an incoming shot towards goal, causing a spinning puck to trickle past Tar Heel keeper Joe Hughes.

“It's the little things, the rivalry games come down to little things and I think [it was] little breakdowns that led them to scoring goals,” senior defenseman Wills Kendrick-Holmes said.

North Carolina responded to the deficit immediately, as the team won the following face off and scored an equalizing goal just six seconds after the N.C. State opener. It was first-year forward Daniel Kauber who scooped up the puck from center ice before netting a top-shelf slapshot past the Ice Pack goalkeeper.

A few moments later, the Tar Heels gained the first power play of the game with less than five minutes before the break. UNC cashed in on the one man advantage when forward Cole Kosowksi skated his way behind N.C. State’s goal and picked out junior forward Tommy Gilligan. The North Carolina forward received the puck in a dangerous position where he gave the Tar Heels the 2-1 advantage ahead of the first intermission. 

“It was a really good play by David Mahan, [he] switched the puck over to Cole and Cole found me out front,” Gilligan said. “Just kind of an easy one for me.”

Out of the break North Carolina applied consistent pressure to the N.C .State defense. The Tar Heels outshot  N.C. State 16-3, yet couldn’t find the back of the net. Instead it was the Ice Pack who leveled the scoring at 2-2. 

Forward Caid Cox quickly changed the momentum of the game when his hail-mary shot on goal slipped past Hughes. Cox unloaded a shot from the neutral zone that slid its way into the bottom corner of the goal frame, in what should have been a routine play for the 39 year old goalkeeper.

With a breath of life added to the game, things started to get a little chippy. In the final minute of the second period, Tar Heel defenseman Florian Zajic threw a heavy shoulder into the facemask of an N.C. State forward. After referees gathered for a brief meeting, the crew determined the penalty was egregious enough to grant N.C. State a five minute power play and for Zajic to be ejected from the game. 

With four minutes of the power play carrying over into the final period, N.C. State produced an early goal that put the Ice Pack ahead 3-2. Once again however, N.C. State was unable to take a full breath while leading, after UNC answered in only 44 seconds. 

Tar Heel forward Henry Foster drew UNC level once again after he knifed his way through the Ice Pack defense and found enough separation to score North Carolina’s third goal of the night. 

A go-ahead goal by the Tar Heels with less than seven minutes in the game was answered once again by the Ice Pack for the fourth tie and eighth lead change of the game. The 4-4 scoreline took the rivalry into overtime.

“It’s always fun when you get to play extra hockey, especially three on three it's  a good time,” Foster said. “I could feel everyone kind of tense up because it's natural. It’s overtime. It’s sudden death. So I was trying to keep it loose on the bench.”

Back and forth play early into the overtime period produced many chances for UNC, but nothing threatening enough to find a Tar Heel game-winner. Instead, N.C. State led a three on two attack that ended the game when an Ice Pack forward finished a slapshot over the outstretched leg of Hughes. 

An ending score 5-4 in favor of N.C. State, handed UNC its fourth consecutive loss of the season.

The Tar Heels will travel to Springfield, VA in their next match to face Rowan University in the ACCHL showcase the weekend of Nov. 3-5. 

@cadeshoemaker23

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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