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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC ice hockey team falls to N.C. State in sudden-death overtime loss

20231027_Zinn_Sports-IceHockey-vs-NCSU-18.jpg
UNC senior forward Henry Foster (81) anticipates 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.

As the buzzer sounded at the end of the third period, the North Carolina club ice hockey team felt none of the relief that typically follows the end of regulation.

Rather than being comforted by the four walls of the locker room, the Tar Heels retook their place on the ice for another five minutes of play — their first three-on-three sudden-death matchup of the season.

“It’s always fun when you get to play extra hockey, especially three-on-three” senior forward Henry Foster said. “It’s a good time. I could feel everyone kind of tense up because it’s natural. It’s overtime. It’s sudden death.” 

On Friday, North Carolina traveled to Raleigh to play N.C. State. After dropping three straight games at the ACHA showcase earlier this month, the Tar Heels were looking for a bounce-back win against one of their biggest rivals. However, after allowing the Wolfpack to score late in the third period, they found themselves in overtime before ultimately falling 5-4.

For North Carolina, three-on-three play is not entirely unfamiliar — the Tar Heels frequently drill smaller games at practice with only four players on each team on one half of the rink.

However, when the space is increased by 100 feet, the situation completely changes. It’s difficult to gain possession once it’s lost. Man-on-man play becomes more critical. Every face-off counts.

Three simple rules emerge during overtime: keep possession, stay on your man and don’t allow odd-man rushes from opponents. 

In the quick break before overtime, head coach Adam Dauda tried to emphasize the differences between regular and overtime play to his exhausted team. 

“It’s almost a different game because as soon as you get a little bit of a head start on your opposing player that’s covering you, it’s an odd-man rush immediately,” Dauda said. 

Before overtime, the Tar Heels had outpaced and outshot N.C. State. They killed all power play opportunities with the exception of one. 

But despite being in command for the majority of the game, in front of a red sea of fans tethered to the pulse of the N.C. State band, the Tar Heels failed to follow those three simple rules.

Except for a small stint following a UNC timeout, the Wolfpack maintained possession throughout most of overtime and found an opportunity to put the game away near the end of the period.

After junior forward Thomas Gilligan chased down a loose puck which put him far down in enemy territory, N.C. State’s Caid Cox moved the puck forward into the neutral zone. Following the turnover, the Wolfpack possessed an odd-man rush opportunity and N.C. State’s Nick Shook took on lonely first-year defenseman Nick Curley. 

He found an opportunity to take a shot on the left side of the goal in front of blinded junior goalkeeper Joel Hughes, and with a little over one minute remaining, the puck found the back of the mesh. Hughes slammed his stick down and N.C. State players stormed the ice in black-clad uniforms. In the storied Tobacco Road rivalry, the Wolfpack claimed this one. 

“I think [in] three-on-three there’s a lot of ice to skate,” senior defenseman Wills Kendrick-Holmes said. “They just possessed the puck well and they got all the odd-man rushes. That’s kind of the name of the game in overtime is odd-man rushes and they got us on one at the end.” 

This marks the fourth straight match that North Carolina has lost. The team needs a win more than ever as the Tar Heels’ slate of road games continues with the ACCHL showcase next weekend in Springfield, Va., in which UNC will take on Rowan University, Penn State and Rider University. 

“I think it’s going to be a challenge in the room to not get discouraged and kind of keep the course,” Foster said. “Being a senior, I see a lot of good things out of this group and right now the puck is not bouncing our way and that’s hockey. Just got to stay the course and try to get some more wins coming up.”

@_emmahmoon

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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